Key Issues & Mandates
Increased levels of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere – primarily carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons – are linked with the global phenomenon of climate change. Slowing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring availability of the plentiful energy essential to economic vitality, is an important concern for many nations. NETL is involved in initiatives at the regional, national, and international levels to broaden the technology options available for addressing climate change. Market and Policy Drivers >
NETL conducts research and technology development that contribute to expanding the options for meeting near-term goals for greenhouse gas intensity set by President Bush in the Global Climate Change Initiative; ensuring the readiness of future technologies for the 2012 reassessment required by the initiative; and making the longer-term goal of atmospheric stabilization of greenhouse gases more achievable. Frequently Asked Questions about Global Climate Change >
Federal investment in climate change mitigation technologies has one overriding benefit: a broad suite of such technologies can expand the menu of future policy choices, both domestically and internationally. In contrast, without federal research and development, the choice of future greenhouse-gas-reducing technologies may be limited to those that are either prohibitively expensive or require massive overhauls to the energy infrastructure of our Nation and others.
NETL's activities relevant to global climate change mitigation include the following:
- In the field of carbon sequestration, NETL conducts research and development related to the capture and permanent storage of carbon dioxide, including geologic, terrestrial, and oceanic options; breakthrough concepts in sequestration; non-carbon-dioxide greenhouse gas mitigation; and measurement, monitoring, and verification. This work includes developing approaches to capture carbon dioxide from point sources for use in enhanced recovery – an approach that not only sequesters carbon dioxide but puts it to use in producing domestic oil and natural gas resources that otherwise would likely remain stranded. The program also conducts sequestration partnerships with regional, state, and local governments; and provides critical support for FutureGen, a concept for an integrated complex that would both generate power and sequester carbon.
- A major portion of the NETL research portfolio seeks to significantly improve the efficiency of coal and natural gas power systems. With each step up in power plant efficiency, more electricity is generated per unit of fuel and less carbon dioxide is emitted. While the private sector alone might be expected to make incremental 1- or 2-percent increases in power-generation efficiencies, a successful Federal research and development program will push the technology well beyond those levels. Efficiency improvements of 10 to 15 percent are targeted for natural-gas-fueled systems, and as much as 20 to 30 percent for coal-based power systems. Boosting power plant efficiencies could offer one of the most affordable and least disruptive ways to reduce greenhouse gas intensity. Also under development at NETL are fuel cell technologies that generate electricity at the point of use without fossil fuel combustion and related carbon dioxide emissions.
- NETL contributes to development of hydrogen and clean fuels, with a focus on methods to produce hydrogen fuels from fossil sources that would be used in fuel-cell-powered vehicles. Such vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
- NETL also supports policymakers at the regional, national, and international levels in evaluating the efficacy and cost effectiveness of options for addressing climate change. NETL analyses assist policymakers in developing protocols and methodologies for the cost-effective implementation of flexible, market-based mechanisms for greenhouse gas emission control; promoting the international transfer of clean energy technologies; researching and encouraging the domestic adoption of greenhouse-gas-reducing technologies; and training and capacity building to develop regional and global capabilities to mitigate the effects of climate change.