“I want to be a resource and help support people in this field as much as possible, because I think we need all hands on deck to move this forward. I hope to play a small role in that, and I want to help empower others to do the same.”~Dr. Josh Schaidle
In this newsletter issue, we feature Dr. Josh Schaidle, Laboratory Program Manager, Carbon Management, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Global CO2 Initiative Advisory Board Member.
In addition to being the Laboratory Program Manager for Carbon Management, Josh is also the Chief of Staff for NREL’s Bioenergy Science and Technology Directorate and is the director of the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (chemcatbio.org). He holds a BS in Chemical Engineering (University of California Santa Barbara), a PhD in Chemical Engineering (University of Michigan), and a Distinguished Leadership Certificate (University of Michigan Ross Business School) and has won multiple awards and accolades for his work.
What do you do?
I lead a research team that helps develop technologies for carbon capture, carbon utilization, and carbon removal. Part of my job entails performing decision analysis, and helping companies, municipalities, and countries make smart decisions around how they deploy carbon management solutions. I help figure out what solutions make sense for them, and also help them understand the trade-offs involved. My team and I also help support scale up and demonstration of those technologies.
How did you get interested in this field?
As an undergrad, I had a professor who, every morning in class, would randomly pick a person and ask them if they knew the price of oil that day. If you didn’t know, you lost points. This professor got us to pay close attention to the cost of oil, and energy more generally, and how that cost acts as an indicator for lots of other things, e.g. food, gas, etc. All of these other products are connected to energy.
That was really when I became interested in alternative energy and in circular means of producing materials, with the ultimate goal of avoiding continuous emissions of CO2 through fossil fuel combustion.
In graduate school, I worked on converting various renewable carbon feedstocks, which has become a central tenet of my career. My work focuses on how we can make the best use of the renewable and circular carbon feedstocks, i.e. biomass, carbon dioxide, and various waste streams like municipal solid waste and others. How can we efficiently convert these feedstocks into the products we need now as well as the products we expect to need in the future as we go through this energy transition?
Working at NREL is a particularly unique and rewarding experience because we have the ability to work across foundational science as well as go all the way up to applied engineering and really help to bring technologies towards the cusp of commercialization.
How did you become connected to GCI?
When I was working on my PhD at the University of Michigan, I crossed paths a few times with Volker (Sick, Director of the Global CO2 Initiative). Then, when I graduated and went to work at NREL, I got heavily involved with carbon dioxide capture, removal, and utilization. NREL was leading a project on the feasibility of CO2 utilization, specifically CO2 conversion to fuels and chemicals. We saw a lot of synergies in terms of the analysis and experimental work we were doing at NREL and the work that GCI was doing and realized that this would be a great opportunity for a partnership.