Distinguished Speaker Seminar – Professor Thomas A. Adams II

Location: CHBE Room 102

Finding the Signal in the Noise: Determining North America’s Best Path Forward for Sustainable Energy


One of the largest engineering challenges of our time is finding technical solutions that permit the use of our energy resources in a sustainable way. To achieve meaningful and positive change, new energy systems must adhere to the triple bottom line of sustainability; new technical solutions must be economically, socio-politically, and environmentally sustainable, such that they can be rapidly adopted and accepted. Engineering literature is full of many technical proposals for new energy systems, but it is challenging to objectively look at them all, see through the hype, and decide which are the best and most promising technologies in which to invest our research and development dollars. In this talk, Professor Adams will present a case study with the results of his team’s recent meta-study covering over 100 candidate electricity generation systems with carbon dioxide capture, to determine which are the most promising classes of technologies. He will show how meaningful big picture conclusions can only be made when using certain consistent standards and methodologies, and present some surprising results about where we should be headed in the fossil-based power generation sector. Then, he will show how this methodology can be extended to other kinds of studies, and make a call for energy systems researchers to change how they conduct techno-economic analyses through a new standardization framework such that we can much more rapidly understand how each study fits into the bigger picture. With these changes, we will be able to most effectively direct our research money and effort to make the wisest decisions about how to develop our energy systems across Canada and the rest of North America.


Dr. Thomas A. Adams II, P.Eng, is an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University. His research interests are in process systems engineering, particularly with regards to the modeling, simulation, and design of sustainable chemical and energy processes. Areas of application include power generation, carbon capture, synthetic fuels, alternative fuels, advanced distillation technology, mobile and modular chemical plants, energy conversion, eco-techno-economic analyses, and others. He is a Section Editor-In-Chief of the journal Processes, the chair of the Systems & Control Division of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE), and the author of the popular textbook Learn Aspen Plus in 24 Hours. He has recently been recognized with awards such as the Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering’s Lectureship Award, CSChE’s Emerging Leader award, Ontario’s Early Researcher Award, received the title of University Scholar at McMaster, and was named in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research’s 2018 Class of Most Influential Researchers.