"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."

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.

How would you describe your role on our advisory board?

I'm very passionate about mentorship and workforce development, and I see the Global CO2 Initiative playing a very unique role in this space. One of the things that I often talk about in some of my presentations is that the technology is the problem. Systems of the future are going to look very different than what we have today. We've mapped out an example–a CO2 to sustainable aviation fuel process–that has electrochemistry, biology, and thermochemistry, in different steps. We need people who understand those systems, who can operate those systems, and who bring them together. There's a critical need for an educated and skilled workforce in the area of CO2 utilization. A big part of my role on the Advisory Board is providing feedback on how GCI can best tailor their educational and research initiatives to maximize support for their students and ensure students are prepared for this workforce. 

Another aspect of my role is helping GCI think about the ecosystem. As a part of a national lab, I have unique insight into the landscape ecosystem: Who are the key players? What's going on in the national lab system? What activities are happening to support the DOE (Department of Energy) and how can GCI connect with those activities? In general, I help GCI think strategically about the future of the initiative. 

The third piece of my role is providing technical guidance to GCI. For example, what kind of research could they be doing? What questions need to be answered? How do we get out in front of some of the key issues in this field?

You have a lot of publications, degrees, certificates, awards, and accolades. Do you have a favorite?

In all the things with which I've been involved–every publication, award, course, certificate–it's always been a collaborative team effort to be successful. So I would have to say that my favorite thing is not an award, but the diverse groups of people I've gotten to work with in all those aspects. I believe the greatest value is in working together with diverse people of varying backgrounds to tackle hard problems. So the aspect of my career that I'm most proud of, honored by, and humbled by would definitely be the folks I get to work with and the teams I've been a part of.

What will we see from NREL in the near future?

We have a rapidly emerging Carbon Management Program and we are actively adapting some of our core capabilities towards the critical questions that exist in carbon management and carbon dioxide utilization. I would bucket these questions into three areas: technology development (e.g. how do you de-risk your technology as you scale up?), informed deployment (e.g. what factors do you need to consider in order to make smart deployment decisions?), and life cycle analysis (e.g. how do you track carbon through these complicated systems and make sure that you're creating real value for the climate as well as for the community?).

What else should readers know about you?

I love to connect with people. If anyone reading this story would like to reach out, I'm happy to engage with people and talk about opportunities in general. If people want feedback on where I see opportunities, needs, or challenges in terms of the CO2 utilization space or people just want to connect, I'm very happy to do that. I’m even happy to help offer career advice or just talk about the technical sides of CO2 utilization. 

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.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

I'm a very avid triathlete. That's one of my favorite hobbies outside of spending time with my family. I would say it's beneficial for me physically and mentally, but also for work. When I'm riding, running, or swimming, I'm constantly thinking about problems in my work, constantly strategizing about things that we need to be doing and big questions that are coming up. 

We need to move quickly, but not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed. It is very important to have balance in life; balance is critical from a mental health perspective and also for general well being.

Josh Schaidle and his three young triathlon coaches.

News in a Nutshell

EU reaches deal banning ‘climate-neutral’ product claims

Biden-Harris Administration announces $14 million as part of Investing in America agenda to support research for new ocean-based climate solutions

Offshore Europe 2023: Wood Mackenzie calls for greater urgency on carbon capture

Stripe, Shopify, H&M spend $7 million on carbon removal from a dozen new companies

New Indices EEX GCI Core And EEX GCI Extended Will Track Global Carbon Markets

Khosla Ventures backs effort to make orchards of lung-like material to absorb CO2 from air

Nūxsen, Poised To Disrupt CO2 Removal Industry, Named Startup Of The Year Finalist

Imminent Events

Carbon Management Community Summit

Nov 16-17, 2023

This event will feature a series of presentations, discussions, and workshops designed to inform and engage the local public on the topic of carbon management, and to spur collaboration in project planning and development across stakeholder groups.

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