Earth scientist Gregory Rau is finalist for ConocoPhillips Energy Prize

Gregory Rau, a senior researcher at UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences, was chosen as a finalist for the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize for his energy and carbon management proposal. Rau's concept for a method to produce "green" hydrogen was chosen from more than 300 applications.

"Out of the blue I got a phone call saying that I was one of the top five finalists," said Rau, who is affiliated with the Carbon Management Program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "I was quite surprised and pleased to be part of that."

The ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative by ConocoPhillips and Pennsylvania State University, is designed to recognize new ideas and original, actionable solutions that can help improve the way the United States develops and uses energy. The prize includes $25,000 for the finalists to further develop their concepts. This is the first year the prize has been awarded.

Rau's concept proposes to use renewable energy, such as wind, wave, or solar, for both the production of hydrogen and the generation of carbon-dioxide-absorbing solutions. A novel electrolysis cell would simultaneously split water and mineral carbonate, producing hydrogen gas and dissolved mineral hydroxide. The resulting alkaline solution would absorb carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or from waste gas streams.

This carbon-negative electrolytic hydrogen technology could have many benefits, Rau said. It would reduce our carbon footprint by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and it would generate hydrogen, which may someday be used to power cars. In addition, the alkaline solution it generates could be used to help neutralize the ongoing acidification of the oceans that is resulting from carbon dioxide emissions.

Note to reporters: You may contact Rau at (925) 423-7990 or