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News Release

Release Date: August 12, 2005

Four NETL Research Projects Win R&D 100 Awards for Technological Innovation
Technologies Improve Environmental Performance of Fossil Fuels, Speed Transition to Future Hydrogen Economy

MORGANTOWN, W. VA. - Four technologies developed with support from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) have earned prestigious R&D 100 Awards from R&D 100 Magazine.

The technologies, which received funding from the DOE Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, include:

  • A drilling tool to increase the energy efficiency and environmental performance of developing natural gas, especially the natural gas found in coal seams.
  • A sensor to enable better control of combustion processes and reduce emissions from coal-fired power generation.
  • An improved hydrogen separation membrane to support the transition to a hydrogen economy, in which hydrogen is the fuel of choice for transportation and power generation.
  • A flexible, lightweight drill pipe which could revitalize thousands of idle U.S. oil and gas wells through short-radius horizontal drilling.

The R&D 100 Awards-sometimes called "the Oscars of Invention"-are presented annually to the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. In just 5 years, NETL researchers, and researchers supported by NETL, have earned 16 of the coveted awards.

?We're looking for products and processes that can change people's lives for the better, improve the standard of living for large numbers of people, save lives, promote good health, and clean up the environment,? say the editors of R&D Magazine, which has handed out the awards since 1963.

Past winners have become mainstays of American life, and include Polacolor film, the flashcube, the digital wristwatch, antilock brakes, the automated teller machine, the fax machine, the Nicoerm antismoking patch, and HDTV.

This year's R&D 100 Awards will be presented October 20 during a black-tie banquet at the Navy Pier Convention Center in Chicago.

The winning technologies include the following:

  • Drill String RadarTM-Stolar Research Corporation's Drill String RadarTM is a breakthrough technology using radar navigation for horizontal directional drilling in an undulating coalbed or oil/gas reservoir. Developed for use on a drill string, the technology sends electromagnetic waves into the earth which react with the underground rock layers to provide a "map" of the geologic structure around the drill bit. The tool lowers operational risks, reduces drilling costs, and eliminates the unnecessary cutting of unwanted rock. It also reduces the production of wastewater and cuts energy use by reducing the amount of unwanted material that must be handled and processed. NETL supported development of the Drill String Radar with funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Industrial Technologies Program, which seeks to improve the energy intensity of U.S. industry through cooperative research and technology development. Stolar's research partners also included CONSOL Energy Inc. and West Virginia University.
  • High-Temperature Potentiometric Oxygen Sensor with Internal Reference-Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory and Ohio State University have developed a compact solid-state oxygen sensor for monitoring combustion processes in high-temperature environments such as coal-fired power plants, blast furnaces, and internal combustion engines. The sensor uses an internal reference air chamber instead of an external air source, eliminating the need for expensive and bulky external plumbing. The ceramic sensor is small (about the size of a small button) and inexpensive (about one-twentieth the cost of conventional oxygen sensors), which permits the placement of multiple sensors at various locations throughout a combustor for more precise control of the combustion process. Use of the new oxygen sensor in coal-fired power plants promises to increase energy efficiency and lower emission levels. NETL provided funding and support for the sensor's development through its Power Systems Advanced Research program.
  • Hydrogen Transport Membrane Technology-Eltron Research Inc. has taken a significant step toward the hydrogen economy of the future with its development of dense hydrogen transport membranes for separating hydrogen from gas mixtures such as coal-derived synthesis gas. More permeable and less expensive than conventional hydrogen separation membranes, the rugged new membranes are expected to enable economic and efficient production of hydrogen from carbon-based feedstocks such as coal. The membranes have shown stable performance under the high-temperature, high-pressure conditions needed for the water-gas shift reaction, in which carbon monoxide and water react to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. This will allow their integration with water-gas shift reactors in certain coal gasifiers. The result: a nearly pure stream of hydrogen, which could be used in a fuel cell to produce electricity or as a transportation fuel, and a concentrated stream carbon dioxide, ready for sequestration. NETL has supported development of the technology through cooperative agreements since 2000.
  • Short-Radius Composite Drill Pipe-With much of the nation's ?easy to produce? oil gone, many U.S. companies are looking for lower cost ways to recover oil and gas that may have been bypassed when the fields were first opened. To address this need, Advanced Composite Products and Technology Inc., in cooperation with NETL, has developed a short-radius composite drill pipe made from carbon fiber composites rather than steel. The flexible, lightweight drill pipe is particularly amenable to horizontal drilling, which allows production from formations where much of the Nation's oil and gas remains. Able to stay bent for extended periods without suffering fatigue damage, the composite pipe allows access to these formations from old wells, thereby avoiding the environmental impact of drilling new ones. The composite pipe could bring new life to thousands of idle U.S. oil and gas wells drilled in the early 20th century.

Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646