NETL: News Release - NETL Scientists Garner Six New U.S. Patents
News Release

Release Date: March 18, 2011

NETL Scientists Garner Six New U.S. Patents
Patented Technologies Available for Licensing, Commercialization

Pittsburgh - Researchers at the the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) received six patents in 2010 for technologies to reduce emissions, increase power efficiencies, and lower energy-production costs. NETL is now seeking licensing partners interested in implementing the patents.

Patenting novel technologies protects U.S. investment in energy-related research. NETL’s Technology Transfer office manages the process for the laboratory and fosters the development of new technologies, with the ultimate goal of transferring technology into the U.S. marketplace. Many innovations developed at NETL have been successfully transferred to industrial partners.

Inventions receiving patents in 2010 comprised a heat resistant coatings for gas turbines, sorbent technology for gas removal from flue streams, novel catalysts to remove mercury from flue gases, tracers to detect carbon dioxide (CO2) leakage from gas reservoirs, and a probe to detect structural flaws in buried gas-distribution pipelines.

Brief summaries of NETL’s newly issued patents follow:

  • CO2 separation from low-temperature flue gases (U.S. patent number 7,842,126)—The greenhouse gas CO2 is emitted as part of the coal-combustion. To mitigate climate change, the capture and permanent sequestration of CO2 is a high priority. Cost-effective post-combustion capture of CO2 poses a significant engineering challenge. Researchers at NETL are developing novel sorbent and solvent systems that can effectively remove CO2 with limited impact on energy-production cost. This NETL invention will help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using a regenerable solvent system to remove CO2 from flue gas streams. The novel system can achieve high CO2 capture efficiency with modest regeneration energy requirements and corresponding costs.
  • Capacitance probe for detection of anomalies in non-metallic plastic pipe (U.S. patent number 7,839,282)—Since the 1970s, a large portion of gas distribution lines have been fabricated from polyethylene. A special investigative report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates that hundreds of thousands of miles of plastic pipe installed from the 1960s through the early 1980s may be vulnerable to a phenomenon called “brittle-like cracking.” Failures from brittle-like cracking may represent the second most frequent failure for older plastic piping, exceeded only by excavation damage. During the 1980s, standards were changed, and the phenomenon of brittle-like cracking was eliminated; however, no satisfactory technique exists for the inspection of older, buried plastic pipelines. To overcome this problem, scientists at NETL developed a device and method that can detect flaws in buried plastic pipelines. The probe uses a sensor that measures changes in electrical properties of the plastic to evaluate structural integrity. Using this device will allow for the inspection and replacement of older polyethylene gas lines and prevent disruption in gas distribution service.

  • Catalyst for oxidation of mercury in flue gas (U.S. patent number 7,776,780)—Many effluent gas streams contain toxic pollutants, including the heavy metal mercury. The primary species of mercury in low-rank coal-derived flue gases is the elemental form, which, because of its inertness and insolubility in water, makes it technically challenging to remove. In contrast, mercury chloride is highly soluble in water and can be more easily removed. Research at NETL has resulted in the development of iridium-based catalysts for the selective oxidation of elemental mercury to mercury chloride. The catalysts exhibit superior performance relative to existing catalysts, are resistant to deactivation by chemical poisons and high temperature, and can be used to reduce mercury emissions using air pollution control devices already present in coal-fired power plants.
  • Regenerable hydrogen chloride removal sorbent and regenerable multi-functional hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen chloride removal sorbent for high-temperature gas streams (U.S. patent number 7,767,000)—A number of components in coal and other carbon-based fuels form corrosive and toxic compounds during the gasification process. If gasification processes are to be successful, all contaminants in gas streams must be removed. Hydrogen chloride (HCl) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are two of the most significant corrosive compounds that need to be removed from coal gas streams. This NETL invention addresses an industry need by providing a reusable multi-functional sorbent for the simultaneous removal of HCl and H2S. Using a multi-functional sorbent will minimize the number of steps involved in the treatment process and contribute to lower power plant operating costs. The regenerable sorbent is more environmentally friendly since it eliminates waste disposal problems.
  • Thermal barrier coatings (U.S. patent 7,740,948)—Higher operating temperatures for gas turbine engines increase turbine efficiencies, but to achieve these increased efficiencies, gas turbine systems must operate under extreme temperatures and in harsh environments. Significant advances in high-temperature capabilities of turbine components have been achieved through the formulation of nickel- and cobalt-based superalloys, but the use of alloys alone is inadequate to maintain the mechanical and material properties of gas turbines. For this reason, turbine components are often protected using thermal barrier coating systems. Work done at NETL has resulted in the development of novel metallic-ceramic overlay coating materials that protect gas turbine blades and engine components from high temperatures and corrosive gases. The coating material provides enhanced oxidation resistance to the underlying superalloy. Thermal barrier coatings can be applied using low-cost commercial spraying techniques and low-temperature curing. The use of these coatings will allow turbine systems to operate at higher temperatures with increased efficiency.
  • Method of detecting leakage from geological formations used to sequester CO2 (U.S. patent number 7,704,746)—Sequestration of CO2 produced from coal-fired electric power generating facilities and other stationary sources is an important part of U.S efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Monitoring the long-term storage integrity of CO2 sequestered in underground reservoirs is complicated by the fact that the reservoirs may be very deep and can be covered by rock strata. A need exists for a method to determine CO2 movement within a reservoir and to monitor for potential leakage. Researchers at NETL have addressed this need by developing a novel tracking method that uses chemical tracers. The tracers are injected along with CO2 into the reservoir. Since the tracers to not occur in nature, samples collected from the site can be used to monitor for CO2 leakage. The tracers are chemically inert, can be detected at very low levels, and will not harm the environment. The utility of this technology has been demonstrated in field testing and will be instrumental in monitoring CO2 storage sites to ensure public and environmental safety.