Energy and Resource Systems Analysis Laboratory
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
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Below are brief summaries of current ERSAL research projects.  For more information on these projects, please email and/or see the representative publications listed below each project summary.  For a full list of ERSAL publications, click here.

Jump to a specific project:

Supply chain energy efficiency: What's the potential?

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have great leverage to enable energy efficiency improvements in their supply chains through incentives, technical support, and green procurement strategies.  For many products, however, supply chains can be distant and complex. ERSAL researchers are developing a public-use model -- the supply chain analysis (SCAN) model -- that makes energy efficiency opportunities visible to OEMs across extended supply chains at the process and technology level.  The SCAN model combines input-output and techno-economic modeling techniques to estimate which suppliers might reduce their energy use and emissions, through which specific technologies, and at what cost.  The model will enable OEMs to identify the most fruitful targets for energy efficiency initiatives among their suppliers, and to strategically select the initiatives that lead to the greatest energy use reductions at the least cost.
Representative publications:
Masanet, E., Matthews, H.S., Carlson, D., and A. Horvath (2011).  Retail Climate Change Mitigation: Life-Cycle Emission and Energy Efficiency Labels and Standards. California Air Resources Board, Sacramento, California.

Masanet, E., Kramer, K.J., Homan, G., Brown, R., and E. Worrell (2009). "Assessment of Supply Chain Energy Efficiency Potentials: A U.S. Case Study." Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies, Tempe, Arizona, IEEE.

Masanet, E., K.J. Kramer, G.Homan, R.E. Brown, and E. Worrell (2009). Assessment of Household Carbon Footprint Reduction Potentials. California Energy Commission, PIER-Energy-Related Environmental Research Program. CEC-500-2009-072.

Sathaye, J.A., Lecocq, F., Masanet, E., Najam, A., Schaeffer, R., Swart, R., and H. Winkler (2009). “Opportunities to Change Development Pathways Towards Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Energy Efficiency.” Journal of Energy Efficiency, Volume 2, Number 4.
Improving cap and trade approaches for industry

In 2013, California became the first state in the nation to implement a cap and trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its manufacturing sector.  ERSAL researchers are partnering with UC Berkeley and Ecofys (NL) to develop product-based benchmarks for the provision of emissions allowances to California plants under the cap and trade law.  In collaboration with manufacturers and policy makers, our team is developing mathematical approaches for estimating the emissions associated with discrete products within complex production environments, which requires rigorous analysis of mass and energy flows and exchanges among production processes.  The results will enable California policy makers to better consider real-world production variations, and to use best available data and science, when calculating product-based emissions allowances moving forward.

Quantifying the benefits of advanced manufacturing

Next-generation manufacturing processes hold great promise for reducing societal energy use and environmental impacts. Examples include advanced composites for lightweight vehicles, high-strength materials for more durable goods and structures, and nano-materials for energy applications. Rigorous, prospective assessment of the potential environmental and economic implications of such technologies is critical for informing early decisions on RD&D investments, policy incentives, and initial target markets, all of which can help usher advanced manufacturing technologies through the "valley of death." Such assessments are particularly challenging given that environmental and economic benefits are often accrued in other economic sectors (e.g., advanced composites will save energy in transportation, but not necessarily in manufacturing), which can create misalignment of incentives. ERSAL researchers are developing prospective systems modeling approaches to help address these challenges, based on a combination of input-output, techno-economic, and life-cycle modeling methods.

Representative publications:
Sathre, R., and E. Masanet (2013). “Prospective Life-cycle Modeling of a CCS System Using Metal-Organic Frameworks for CO2 Capture.”  Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Advances. In press.

DeForest, N., Shehabi, A., Garcia, G., Greenblatt, J., Masanet, E., Lee., E.S., Selkowitz, S., and D.J. Milliron (2013). “Developing Regional Performance Targets for Transparent Electrochromic Window Glazings.” Building and Environment. In press.

Sathre, R., and E. Masanet (2012). “Energy and Climate Implications of CCS Deployment Strategies in the US Coal-fired Electricity Fleet.” Environmental Science & Technology. In press.

Sathre R, Chester M, Cain J, Masanet E. (2012). "A framework for environmental assessment of CO2 capture and storage systems." Energy - The International Journal. 37(1): 540-548.

Net energy analysis of data center services

The growing energy use of data centers, and their associated emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants, is a topic that has received much attention in both the public media and the scientific research community.     While the energy requirements of data centers are indeed significant, a singular focus on their direct energy use ignores the (potentially much larger) indirect societal energy and environmental benefits that data centers and cloud-based services might provide through improved macro-economic energy and resource efficiencies.   Currently, information on the negative implications of data services far outweighs information on their (potentially vast) positive implications.  ERSAL is partnering with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to address this information gap.  Our team is developing a scientifically rigorous, open-access approach for assessing the net energy and emissions benefits of cloud services in different regions and at different levels of market adoption.  Our goal is to provide credible, science-based results in metrics that are useful for both public and private decisions, and in a software platform that is open for further use and refinement by the business, policy, IT, and scientific communities.

Representative publications:
Masanet, E., Shehabi, A., and J.G. Koomey (2013). “Characteristics of Low-Carbon Data Centers.” Nature Climate Change. In press.

Masanet, E., Brown, R.E., Shehabi, A., Koomey, J.G., and B. Nordman (2011). “Estimating the Energy Use and Efficiency Potential of U.S. Data Centers. Proceedings of the IEEE, Volume 99, Number 8.

Shehabi, A., Masanet, E., Price, H., Traber, K., Horvath, A., and W.W. Nazaroff. (2011). “Data Center Design and Location: Consequences for Electricity Use and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions.” Building and Environment, Volume 46, Issue 5.

Brown, R., Masanet, E., Nordman, B., Tschudi, W., Shehabi, A., Stanley, J., Koomey, J., Sartor, D., Chan, P., Loper, J., Capana, S., Hedman, B., Duff, R., Haines, E., Sass, D., and A. Fanara. (2007). Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency: Public Law 109-431
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California. LBNL-363E.
The energy-water nexus and industrial steam

The rising price of water, increasing water scarcity, and growing demand for environmental transparency have led to increased interest in water efficiency in the U.S manufacturing sector.  One critical but often overlooked opportunity for reducing industrial water use is to improve the efficiency of ubiquitous steam systems---improvements that can also save significant amounts of energy.  ERSAL researchers are developing a thermodynamic energy-water nexus model that estimates steam system makeup water demand based on boiler fuel use, operating pressures and temperatures, blowdown cycles, leak rates, and direct process steam injections in major U.S. industrial subsectors.  The model can be used to identify opportunities for combined energy and water savings at the plant level, and for evaluating industrial water efficiency incentives at the national level. 
Representative publications:
Masanet, E., and M.E. Walker (2013). "Energy-Water Efficiency and U.S. Industrial Steam." Forthcoming.
Energy efficient technology assessment for U.S. industry

ERSAL staff research and author energy efficiency improvement guidebooks for various U.S. industrial subsectors in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR for Industry program.  This research characterizes a wide variety of energy efficiency opportunities applicable to U.S. manufacturing plants. The guidebooks are used by energy managers to identify areas for energy efficiency improvements, to evaluate potential energy improvement options, to develop action plans and checklists for plant-level energy management, and to educate company employees on the importance of and actions for improved energy efficiency. Guidebooks published to date can be accessed here.

Representative publications:
Masanet, E., P. Therkelsen and E. Worrell (2012). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Baking Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California. LBNL-6112E.

Brush, A., E. Masanet, and E. Worrell (2011). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Dairy Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.

Kermeli, K., E. Worrell, and E. Masanet (2011). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Concrete Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.

Worrell, E., P. Blinde, M. Neelis, E. Blomen, and E. Masanet (2010). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Iron and Steel Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California.  LBNL-4779E.

Kramer, K.J., E. Masanet, E. Worrell, and T. Xu (2009). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Pulp and Paper Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California. LBNL-2268E.

Neelis, M., Worrell, E., and E. Masanet (2008). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Petrochemical Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California. LBNL-964E.

Masanet, E., E. Worrell, and C. Galitsky (2008). Energy Efficiency Improvement and Cost Saving Opportunities for the Fruit and Vegetable Processing Industry: An ENERGY STAR® Guide for Energy and Plant Managers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California. LBNL-59289-Revision.
Life-cycle analysis of shale gas production in China

China has significant shale gas resources and has recently launched shale gas exploration and drilling in trial development zones. However, the potential energy and environmental impacts of shale gas production in China are not yet fully understood.  To address this knowledge gap, ERSAL researchers are developing a hybrid life cycle inventory model that combines process and input-output based methods for estimating the ‘shale-to-well’ energy use, resource use, and emissions of shale gas production in China.  The research aims to shed light on the potential environmental impacts of a large-scale shift from coal to shale gas in China, and to identify opportunities for reducing these impacts moving forward.
Representative publications:
Chang, Y., Huang, R., Ries, R., and E. Masanet (2013). "Shale-to-well environmental analysis of shale gas production in China." Forthcoming.
Materials efficiency in U.S. industry

Materials efficiency has been shown to have significant potential for GHG emissions reductions by "doing more with less;" however, this strategy has been largely overlooked in current policy incentives given the way that industrial GHG emissions reductions are accounted for and rewarded.  To address this problem, ERSAL researchers are developing a modeling approach to highlight the potential for societal GHG emissions reductions through materials efficiency in different U.S. industrial subsectors.  The model uses input-output life-cycle assessment techniques to identify subsectors with significant absolute GHG emissions associated with discrete materials in their supply chains.  The goal of this research is to inform policy makers and manufacturers about where investments in industrial materials efficiency can reap the greatest economic and environmental rewards for the U.S. economy.

Student-led life-cycle assessments for local manufacturers

In 2013, ERSAL will launch a pilot program at Northwestern to
provide no-cost life-cycle assessments (LCAs) to local manufacturers using student-professor audit teams.  Through these audits, Northwestern undergraduate students will gain valuable hands-on LCA experience, perform a critical professional service by helping regional manufacturers improve their sustainability, and provide their results to the open scientific community to advance LCA knowledge globally.   If you are a small manufacturer in the Chicago area and are interested in learning more about the program, please send an email to

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