Coal gasification. NETL’s laboratories have made significant contributions to coal gasification and related gas cleanup technologies. NETL’s early research on entrained gasification provided basic data that was subsequently used in the design and construction of modern gasifiers. NETL also conducted testing and development of severe service valves that contributed to the Texaco gasification process. Research conducted at NETL on hot and warm gas cleanup contributed to increased efficiency for coal gasification. One of these concepts was the recipient of an R&D 100 Award. NETL simulations have assisted Southern Company in developing transport gasification − a promising advancement in gasification technology. NETL also developed an alkali monitor for high temperature gas streams that is now commercially available.
Clean liquid fuels from coal and oil shale. NETL conducted pioneering research in direct and indirect liquefaction of coal and production of oil from shales. These research programs helped to improve technologies that are currently in use by industry. NETL participated in developing improved direct coal liquefaction processes, including donor solvents and shape-selective catalysts. Some of these technologies are now being applied commercially in China. NETL developed innovations for indirect coal liquefaction processes, including slurry phase and iron-based catalysts now being used by industry.
Gas turbine technology. NETL conducted studies that improved industry’s ability to use gas turbines that produce very low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions while at the same time operating stably and reliably. NETL also developed techniques to allow low-NOx engines to operate on variable fuels. The instrumentation necessary to operate these low-NOx engines on either coal syngas or natural gas turbines at peak environmental performance and efficiency was also developed at NETL. These technologies are currently licensed by industry.
Innovations for existing electric power plants. Researchers at NETL made significant contributions to the President’s Clear Skies Initiative by improving technologies to capture mercury and prevent its emission; to improve treatment and utilization of by-products, such as ash; and to help address legacy issues, such as the impact that coal mining has on the water quality of streams. NETL laboratory data showed that ash materials can be safely treated as non-hazardous wastes. Mine water treatment technologies developed by NETL have been placed into commercial use. NETL developed two coal-cleaning processes, Micromag and Granuflow, both now commercially available.
Unconventional natural gas production. NETL conducted pioneering laboratory and mathematical simulation research that led to increased reserves and deliverable rates of natural gas from tight gas and coalbed methane reservoirs. This research improved the ability to predict how much natural gas production could be expected from tight gas reservoirs. Another product of this research is a technology for directional drilling of wells.
Carbon capture and sequestration. NETL developed concepts to reduce cost and improve efficiency of carbon capture; one of these is the subject of a CRADA with an industrial partner. NETL developed innovative mathematical simulation methods to estimate capacities and injectivities of fractured reservoirs, such as coal seams and saline aquifers. These methods allow one to estimate how much carbon dioxide can be potentially sequestered in these reservoirs. NETL developed and field tested innovative tracer and soil gas sampling methods to measure potential carbon dioxide leaks from geological sequestration tests. NETL investigated remote sensing methods that may assist in locating abandoned wells that provide leakage paths for sequestered carbon dioxide.
Computational science and simulation. NETL developed a unique capability for applying mathematical simulation methods to reduce the time and cost of experimental R&D in fossil energy technologies. These computational models range from molecular modeling of the behavior of a few atoms on a surface to the simulation of entire energy plants. NETL partnered with MIT in its development of the ASPEN process simulation software. NETL developed a computer code to simulate solids and gas flows in process streams that have high loadings of solid particles. This code was made available as open source by NETL. NETL, with several partners, developed the Advanced Process Engineering Co-Simulator (APECS) to couple computational fluid dynamics with process flowsheet simulation. This research was recognized with R&D 100 Awards in 2004, 2008, and 2001. NETL and several collaboration partners from industry and academia developed a first-of-a-kind, high-fidelity, real-time dynamic simulator with operator training system (OTS) and 3D virtual immersive training system (ITS) for an IGCC power plant with carbon capture. The IGCC OTS/ITS technologies were deployed at NETL's world-class Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training And Research (AVESTAR) Center.