Release Date: July 18, 2007
|DOE Laboratories Join Forces to Address Water-Energy Issues
Collaboration Will Advance Energy Technologies, Reduce Fresh Water Demands
Washington, DC - To address the ever-increasing need for energy and the large demand for fresh water by electricity producers, two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories are pooling their resources in a collaborative effort within the Department's emerging energy-water research program.
The Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) recently signed an agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), aimed at advancing the research, development, demonstration, and ultimately the commercial deployment of technologies, concepts, and systems to reduce fresh water demands related to fossil energy production and generation.
"Resolving the pressures on America's water resources and the expanding thirst for energy will receive a tremendous boost from this collaboration," said Tom Shope, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. "Both NETL and Sandia have extensive, broad-based experience with the nation's energy production infrastructure its effect on supplies. The results of this effort will help ensure water quality for future generations of Americans."
DOE established its energy-water research program to help develop tools that thermoelectric power plants can apply to better manage their use of fresh water. The goal of the program is to ensure the availability of technologies to reduce fresh water withdrawal and consumption, while minimizing impacts on water quality.
Thermoelectric power plants using coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear sources require significant amounts of water for cooling and are a major competitor for limited water resources. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that electric power plants were the second largest user of fresh water in the nation in 2000, withdrawing 136 billion gallons of fresh water per day; only agriculture used more water. About three-fourths of the water used for thermoelectric cooling goes to fossil-fuel-based power plants.
An NETL study, Estimating Fresh Water Needs to Meet Future Thermoelectric Generation Requirements, projects an increase in fresh water consumption by the thermoelectric power sector ranging from 21 to 48 percent between 2005 and 2030.
To address these issues and ensure that future goals are met, NETL and Sandia will bring complementary strengths to the table. NETL manages a variety of coal, oil, and natural gas programs to reduce the use of fresh water related to power production. NETL's scope of work includes thermoelectric power generation; carbon sequestration; oil and gas production, including beneficial uses for produced water; development of integrated gasification combined cycle power systems; and FutureGen, the power plant of the future. Sandia conducts research in both energy and water areas including fossil, renewable, and nuclear energy development; energy and water infrastructure security and reliability evaluations and improvements; nontraditional water treatment and use; and water resources planning and management.
The MOU calls for the two laboratories to accomplish the following:
To further help ensure success, the two laboratories will seek out partnership support from organizations that have demonstrated strong research ties to energy-water issues. Those partners could include other national laboratories; educational institutions; the Electric Power Research Institute; environmental groups; electric utilities; coal, oil, and gas production companies; and technology developers and vendors.
DOE's overall goal in its energy-water research program is to ensure that technologies are available for initial commercial deployment by 2015 to reduce power plant fresh water withdrawal and consumption by 50 percent, while minimizing impacts on water quality by power plant operations.