Shell Center for Sustainability funds new research

Shell Center for Sustainability funds new research

Rice News Staff

Rice scientists will explore new ways to produce fuel economically and reduce the impact on the environment, thanks to grants from the Shell Center for Sustainability (SCS).

Four projects received grants to further the center’s goals of creating an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach and education to address actions that will ensure the sustainable development of living standards, including factors affecting quality of life and environmental resources. The four projects selected involve areas of biofuels impact, sustainability of power generation, production and deployment of biodiesel and carbon sequestration.

Hartley takes reins at Shell Center for

Peter Hartley, professor of economics, has been named the George and Cynthia Mitchell
Family Chair in Sustainable Development and academic director of the Shell Center for Sustainability (SCS).


He is responsible for the leadership of the center and tasked with the development of its academic direction. The center’s primary goal, according to Hartley, will be to further research on “how to have economic growth that delivers improved living standards, including maintaining environmental services and amenities.”

Human ingenuity, in the form of science and engineering, Hartley said, are central to this goal, but policy considerations are also important. Hartley is also a Rice Scholar in the James A. Baker III Institute Energy Forum. He noted that the Shell Center is focused on environmental consequences of the exploitation of energy while the energy forum is more concerned with the economics and politics of the energy industry.

The SCS was created in 2002 as a joint partnership between Rice and Shell Oil. It is governed by a management committee and an operating committee. The management committee includes top leadership from Rice and Shell to oversee the work of the operating committee, which is composed of faculty, Shell Oil staff and Rice University staff. The Center is housed in the School of Social Sciences.
Hartley came to Rice as an associate professor of economics in 1986 after serving as an assistant professor at Princeton University from 1980 to 1986. His doctorate in economics is from the University of Chicago. He is originally from Australia, where he completed an honors degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in economics at the Australian National University. His academic research has covered a wide range of issues, including money and banking, international trade and finance, energy and environmental economics and other applied issues. He has also been an adviser to governments and private firms on energy and environmental issues, including reform of the electricity industry.

Peter Hartley, professor of economics, is the new academic director for the Shell Center for Sustainability, which is an active partnership between Rice University and Shell Oil Company.

Referring to project proposals, Hartley said, ”I believe that finding solutions for threats to sustainable development, such as those arising from limited resources or environmental degradation, will require insights from many different disciplines.” He added, however, that new technologies alone are not sufficient. “Appropriate policies and institutions also have an important role to play, which requires research from the social sciences,” he said. “The Houston area and Texas in general also can play a potential role in providing a suitable laboratory for examining sustainable development.”

The following are the four projects and their faculty sponsors:

The Water Footprint of Biofuels: Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Amy Myers Jaffe, the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and associate director of the Rice Energy Program.

Integrated Economic, Environmental and Reliability Modeling of Power System Growth: Daniel Cohan, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Leonardo Duenas-Osorio, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Peter Hartley, professor of economics and Baker Institute Rice Scholar; Kenneth Medlock, fellow in energy studies at the Baker Institute.

Sustainable Production and Deployment of Biodiesel in Texas: Daniel Cohan; Kyriacos Zygourakis, the A. J. Hartsook Professor and Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Ramon Gonzalez, the William W. Akers Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Carbon Sequestration Through Bio-char Amendment: Caroline Masiello, assistant professor of Earth science; and William Hockaday, postdoctoral research associate.

“We at Shell are pleased that through our partnership with Rice University we can work together to launch research that expands options for sustainable development in a region we call home,” said Kevin Ilges, director of U.S. Social Responsibility and Business Support with Shell Oil Company and a member of the Shell Center for Sustainability Operating Committee. “The Shell Center for Sustainability supports broad reach and collaboration to bring together intellectual assets as well as industry experience and support to better the world we live in. We look forward to expanding the opportunities to support further creativity and innovation.”

Research begins immediately and will continue through the next year. ”We are excited to get these projects under way and look forward to having the opportunity to fund more faculty proposals,” said Lilibeth André, the SCS’s new associate director.

For more information on the Shell Center for Sustainability, visit or call 713-348-2796.

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