Cycling was one of the reasons that Emily Rodriguez chose Linköping.
“I was a competitive cyclist when I studied in the US. I was looking for somewhere to study in Sweden and considered the universities in Linköping, Lund and Uppsala. Linköping seemed nice, and it was home to a reasonably large cycling club, which I contacted.”
But of course, it was more than simply outdoor activities that drew Emily to Linköping and LiU. She had studied environmental science at Whitman College in Washington State. She was looking to continue in the field, and she found a master’s programme that suited her perfectly: “Science for Sustainable Development” in the Department of Thematic Studies.
She completed this degree and left to work in Rome, New York and Brussels before returning to LiU to pursue a doctoral degree.
“My supervisor asked me whether I was interested in coming back and pursuing a doctorate. When the opportunity arose, I thought best to jump at it since I have always thought that it would be exciting.”
Technology that could help
Her thesis will discuss climate change and look at ways in which Sweden could reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the future.
“More than half of the carbon dioxide emitted from large point sources in Sweden come from the use of biomass, including sources such as the pulp and paper industry, energy utilities and waste incineration.”
Her research has concentrated on a technology known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, abbreviated BECCS.
“First, carbon dioxide is captured from an industrial process. The carbon dioxide is then transported by ship or pipeline to a storage site. It is Sweden’s goal to become climate-neutral by 2045, and this technology could help reach this.”
Possibility to achieve “negative emissions”
Using BECCSwould create a possibility to achieve so-called “negative emissions”.
“A tree absorbs carbon dioxide during its lifetime, but when that tree isburned, for example, then that carbon dioxide goes up into the atmosphere. So, the net result is zero emissions. But when that tree burns, if the carbon dioxide is instead captured and stored, then the net result would be negative emissions when the whole cycle is considered.”'
BECCS technology is expensive, and this means that it is best suited for large emitters at a single location, such as large industries. There are quite a few of these in Sweden, and thus the preconditions for establishing BECCS here are good.
“I have looked at the potential for this technology from the perspective of Swedish industries. I have interviewed people from the industries and have tried to understand how they view BECCS. Do they know about the technology, and do they see a possible future for it?”
Would require governmental support
She has shown that industry is reasonably well informed about BECCS technology, but many people consider it more important to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.
“Many people in the pulp and paper industry, for example, are proud that they only use a small amount of fossil fuel. It is, of course, important for the energy transition that emissions from fossil fuels are reduced, but this is very difficult in some situations. Therefore, a solution such as BECCS may also be needed.”
If BECCS technology were to soon be used in Sweden, it would probably require governmental support and enabling legislation, according to Emily Rodriguez.
She will take an interdisciplinary approach in her thesis.
“I have primarily used my knowledge in sociology, but the environmental science programme I studied in the US also included chemistry, physics and biology. Knowledge of these subjects has been useful for my research.”
Emily Rodriguez gains a great deal from her membership in the Graduate School in Energy Systems. Here, ten doctoral students who are all working in the energy sector meet, each one coming from a different educational background.
She thrives in the international environment at the Department of Thematic Studies, although she sometimes misses the Brussels nightlife. And she still enjoys cycling.
“I stopped competing a long time ago, but I enjoy riding in the countryside, sometimes with colleagues from the department.”