ConocoPhillips, Universities Join for Energy Solutions

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ConocoPhillips, Universities Join for Energy Solutions

HOUSTON -- Major oil company ConocoPhillips is teaming up with Penn State University and Iowa State University to develop two separate programs that will encourage students to explore alternative fuel solutions.

The ConocoPhillips Energy Prize -- an awards program that recognizes new ideas and original, actionable solutions to help improve U.S. development and use of energy -- was recently launched at Penn State, according to the company. In its inaugural year, the program will award up to $300,000 in cash prizes to reward innovative ideas and solutions in three areas, including:

-- the development of new energy sources, including new ways to develop alternative energy;

-- the improvement of energy efficiency, such as new methods to significantly reduce the amount of energy consumed in the nation; and

-- the fight against climate change, including solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Providing adequate, reliable and diverse supplies of energy; significantly improving energy efficiency; and taking action on climate change are challenges that will require innovative technology, resource commitments and responsible stewardship by energy producers and consumers alike," Jim Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, said in a statement. "With help from Penn State and its award-winning Energy Institute, the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize is one way to generate excitement and interest in fostering new energy ideas and solutions that will ultimately benefit society."

A qualified panel of energy and environmental judges will select up to five finalists to present concepts during a two-day awards event in October. Concepts will be judged on creativity, scalability, commercial viability and sustainability, according to the company.

"Our focus is on developing clean, reliable and affordable energy, and through the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, we can help spur technology research and development in this area of focus," said Dr. William Easterling, dean of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, home of the EMS Energy Institute. "We are pleased to work with ConocoPhillips on this endeavor, while encouraging the nation's brightest minds to turn their ideas into reality."

The other program being launched by ConocoPhillips involves a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., for a strategic research alliance with Iowa State University, in an effort to further diversify the nation's energy sources, the company stated.

"ConocoPhillips is committed to the development of technologies that will convert sustainable nonfood feedstocks into transportation fuels that will be critical to the nation's energy security," Stephen Brand, ConocoPhillips' senior vice president of technology, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that this collaboration will expand the knowledge base and speed the development of these environmental technologies."

The collaboration joins three independently established programs to find the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from plant materials, such as corn stalks, stems, leaves, other non-food agricultural residues, hardy grasses and fast-growing trees, the company said. Processes examined in the collaboration include gasification, pyrolysis and fermentation.

Each participant will provide its own time and resources, with an initial report slated to be produced by the collaboration in January 2009, the company stated.