Decarbonization is the driving tenet of our sustainable energy future and a key goal in the battle against climate change. NETL scientists and engineers are hard at work developing and advancing the technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle and enable environmental sustainability for all Americans. A key technology among these critical innovations is direct air capture (DAC).
NETL is committed to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. We demonstrate that commitment by fostering the next generation of energy experts and innovators with a range of programs and activities that provide opportunities for college and university students and faculty as well as hands-on learning experiences for all students, teachers and the general public.
NETL takes its mission to drive innovation and deliver solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future very seriously. Our research spans a wide breadth of technology areas that protects human health and safeguards the environment for future generations by making hard-hitting and lasting scientific breakthroughs designed to mitigate the climate crisis. Energy and the environment are inextricably linked. NETL’s exciting and dynamic work creates technology solutions that harmonize the two and improve people’s lives in meaningful ways.
As we begin another year of innovation here at NETL, I am filled with optimism. I look back at all we achieved so far and I know that we will continue to build on these successes. Our work has helped bring the nation closer than ever to meeting critical climate goals set forth by the Biden-Harris Administration that call for a carbon emission-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero clean energy economy by 2050.
The great American thinker William James once said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
With a new year just around the corner, it’s a good time to take stock of the many accomplishments NETL scientists and engineers have achieved over 2022.
With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, America committed to rebuilding the country’s roads and bridges, expanding access to clean drinking water, tackling the climate crisis and advancing environmental justice by building a more resilient future and investing in communities that have too often been left behind.
NETL’s Point Source Carbon Capture Team recently resumed field visits to research and development sites where crucial technologies are being advanced with the Lab’s oversight and support to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the world’s prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG).
“Once it was safe to travel, our supervisor (José Figueroa) was eager for us to obtain a first-hand look at our projects that are in development to meet the nation’s aggressive climate change goals,” said Krista Hill, a federal project manager.
I’m pleased to share a newly released quarterly report — a roundup of some of our work to meet clean energy goals that call for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
Our fourth-quarter success stories describe impressive strides across a range of energy technology development, including:
America is on the threshold of a massive energy change that should have an equally massive effect on the planet’s health and prosperity. NETL’s work on hydrogen production and storage is at the forefront of that shift. This month, in a series of stories on our website, we will highlight the work underway at NETL to develop and deploy safe, effective wide-spread underground storage technologies to further boost a U.S. market for clean hydrogen.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan observed that “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” In energy research, we’re playing for more than a title — we’re striving for the health and prosperity of our planet. It’s a challenge that requires much talent and a vast amount of teamwork as innovators bring all their collective expertise to bear on climate change and our sustainable energy future.
NETL has long been at the forefront of environmental stewardship and pioneering ways to use our energy resources that also protect the environment. One aspect of these efforts is our research to find and characterize abandoned oil and gas wells, known as orphan wells, which can leak methane — a potent greenhouse gas, contaminate groundwater and create other environmental issues long after they’ve been taken out of production.
Back in 1783, a French scientist named Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier came up with the name “hydrogen” for the element he is generally credited with discovering. The name is from the Greek hydro meaning “water” and genes meaning “former.” He settled on the name after affirming that water is produced when hydrogen is burned.
I’m pleased to share a newly released quarterly report — a round-up of some of our work to meet clean energy goals that call for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
Our third-quarter success stories describe impressive strides across a range of energy technology development, including:
Acid mine drainage (AMD) can have devastating effects on waterways, groundwater and aquatic ecosystems. AMD can also corrode bridges and other parts of the infrastructure. In the United States, more than 12,000 miles of streams and rivers are degraded by AMD, mostly originating in abandoned mines. It’s no surprise that AMD disproportionately affects our nation’s coal and power plant communities that have been essential to the growth of the United States.
“The best way to have a good idea,” reasoned American chemist, author and educator Linus Pauling, “is to have a lot of ideas.”
At NETL, we have a lot of good ideas for innovations that can help decarbonize our planet, create good-paying jobs, and work toward a net-zero carbon nation. And, we have the knowledge to help back up those ideas. Over the last three months alone, we have gone the extra mile to share them with the organizations, institutions, individuals and conferences that can help move good ideas into action.
At NETL, our team of researchers are working hard to deliver integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future. Key among our talented experts are NETL’s women engineers who daily embrace the wide-ranging challenges of delivering solutions toward a brighter tomorrow.
In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, we recognize the critical contributions our women engineers make toward our nation’s prosperity, and the fundamental necessity of diversity and gender equality in our organizations.
Almost 65 years ago, when Martin Luther King Jr., said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,” the world had yet to face the challenges of global climate change. Yet his wisdom then holds a great lesson for us today as we apply all our best thinking and best ideas in striving to reach goals that hold positive impact for “all humanity.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is a historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to address climate change and generate economic growth by transforming the nation’s energy infrastructure.
With our word-class facilities and expertise spanning carbon management, environmental sustainability, and technology development to ensure affordable, abundant and reliable energy, NETL has important contributions to make in support of BIL investments.
NETL has exceptional facilities and leading-edge capabilities that enable innovation to thrive. But what really drives solutions are our scientists and engineers, who are dedicated to a sustainable energy future and making the world a better place.
This month, we feature a few of our innovation specialists, whose talent and expertise represent a few members of world-class team, such as:
As NETL’s talented team of scientists and engineers embark on another quarter this spring, we build on a solid foundation of recent successes. I’m proud of our work to meet clean energy goals calling for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. Our commitment to a sustainable energy future is demonstrated in this quarter’s achievements outlined in a newly released quarterly report.
What do high tech tools to understand the internal structures of rocks; sophisticated heating equipment strong enough and hot enough to melt metals; and a cutting edge platform combining artificial intelligence with machine learning and information dissemination abilities have in common? The answer is NETL, where an evolving collection of technologies are playing an impressive role in advancing knowledge attaining breakthroughs in energy research.
There’s an African Proverb that teaches us: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s wise advice, but at NETL, we intend to go fast and far by accelerating our own unique and productive research while actively seeking opportunities to work with others around the world in a shared journey to innovate new energy technologies for a clean and productive energy future.
Discovery and innovation are about collaboration, combining expertise and building on diverse ideas. Collaboration is foundational to NETL’s work to deliver integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future. That’s why the work of our dedicated engineers and scientists in NETL’s Technology Development Center (TDC) is so critical to our Lab’s success.
TDC leads integrated technical and business teams to define, solicit, negotiate, manage and deliver federally sponsored energy research and demonstrates benefits to the nation.
Education study groups have defined “sparks” as “interests or passions that light a fire in a person’s life. Spark expresses the core of who a person is and how they want to engage with the world around them. Sparks bring joy and hope.”
All year every year, NETL recognizes the importance of those “sparks” by supporting and encouraging young people to further their interest in and study of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects in a wide range of activities both within the Laboratory and externally in our communities.
Above: Nor Farida Harun mentor research associates in NETL’s HyPer Facility. (Photo taken before 2020)
Innovation continues to thrive at NETL, as demonstrated in another productive quarter and as a direct result of our talented team. Thanks to your determination and dedication, we kicked off FY22 with impressive results.
Advancing Carbon Capture and Storage Technologies to Meet Clean Energy Goals
As we embark on a productive new year, NETL researchers are hard at work on innovations that will make a big impact toward the clean energy goals calling for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
New Years are always exciting as they promise a fresh start and a year of possibilities. At NETL, we’re building on our foundation of innovation and are resolved to deliver integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future.
I’m confident that 2022 will be a productive year of breakthroughs and technology advances as we continue our work to meet clean energy goals calling for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
NETL researchers have received three Secretary’s Honor Awards for advancing technologies that have made significant impacts in meeting the priorities of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Those at NETL who received this prestigious recognition have established themselves as leaders in their respective fields and have made breakthrough discoveries or developed new tools to clean our water and air, lower the environmental footprint of energy production, and create new jobs and industries.
Throughout 2021, NETL researchers applied their talent and expertise toward technology solutions needed to meet the clean energy goals calling for net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
I’m pleased to share with you some examples of the many successes resulting from our work toward enabling a sustainable transition to a net-zero carbon economy.
Throughout December, check our website and social media for a few featured highlights from 2021 in the areas of:
As we near the end of 2021, NETL scientists and engineers are hard at work on leading-edge research that is driving innovation and delivering solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future.
NETL innovation and technology solutions continue to provide critical advances toward meeting clean energy goals calling for net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
These are aggressive goals, and our NETL researchers are up for the challenge, as demonstrated by numerous 2021 accomplishments.
During Energy Awareness Month, celebrated each October, we raise awareness of the importance of sustainably managing our nation’s energy resources. For NETL, this is also a time to celebrate our successes toward delivering integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future. Let’s look at a few examples.
As a clean-burning fuel, hydrogen is an important resource to help meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals calling for net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
Experts across NETL are applying their world-class talents to drive innovation and deliver solutions for our nation’s decarbonized energy future and some of these efforts are highlighted in our recently released issue of NETL Edge.
NETL’s research portfolio includes many critical technology areas for delivering integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future. An important aspect of that research is ensuring the technologies and innovations resulting from our work will have impact and real potential to improve people’s lives.
This month we’re featuring just a few of the many technologies our researchers are advancing that stand out for innovation and are market-ready. Visit our website through October to read more about:
As our talented team of scientists and engineers drive innovation and deliver solutions to meet the Biden Administration’s goals calling for a net-zero carbon emission electricity sector by 2035 and economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050, we’re working to transform how our nation produces and uses energy. We’re embracing the opportunity to help usher in a decarbonized energy future that will provide a foundation for sustainability and prosperity.
Modern society relies on high-tech devices for nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and high-tech devices rely on rare earth elements (REEs). Hundreds of products across many applications, including cell phones, electronic displays, computer hard drives, hybrid vehicles and defense guidance systems must have REEs to operate. Traditionally, the U.S. has imported a large portion of its REEs and critical minerals (CMs), but DOE supports numerous research projects to create a domestic REE supply chain using the nation’s historic energy resources.
As an applied laboratory, NETL is focused on impact. Our research is developing innovations and technologies with the potential to improve lives, and as we apply our energy and environmental successes to the broader goal of decarbonization, we join efforts to literally save the planet.
Using our nation’s resources cleanly and efficiently has long been a central tenet of NETL’s mission. As we work to develop and deploy the technologies that will move us into a decarbonized energy future, NETL researchers are also hard at work advancing innovations that are giving new life to our nation’s abundant carbon ore resources, expanding this important resource beyond only an energy fuel to a feedstock for valuable materials.
Leading-edge carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are needed more urgently than ever before if we’re to successfully mitigate the climate crisis. NETL has been at the forefront of CCS research for decades. Now, we’re leveraging our wide-ranging expertise to advance an emerging technology area called direct air capture (DAC) and lower the cost of DAC systems.
Each year, NETL welcomes research associates to join our world-class researchers in driving innovation and delivering solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future.
For the next ten weeks, research associates will be part of a talented team of scientists and engineers who are making impressive breakthroughs in all kinds of energy technologies, from catalysts and methods to creating valuable products from domestic resources, to component development for highly efficient turbine systems and more to help mitigate carbon emissions.
NETL has long been a leader in energy innovation that looks ahead to develop solutions to tomorrow’s energy challenges. In this way, our talented team of scientists and engineers advance technologies like carbon capture and storage so that they can be deployed to address critical challenges like the climate crisis. Collaboration is fundamental to our work and so is sharing our breakthroughs and successes with the energy community.
Seeking diverse viewpoints and perspectives has always been foundational for how NETL develops solutions to our nation’s toughest energy challenges. Acknowledging and valuing the strength of diversity is central to the Lab’s Historically Black College and Universities and Other Minority Institutions (HBCU-OMI) program, which provides student training and research opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities in the fields of science and technology related to fossil energy resources and carbon management technologies.
April brings a new quarter for the 2021 fiscal year, and it’s a good time to share the successes NETL research achieved during Q2. Our Lab continued to diligently pursue integrated solutions to enable transformation to a sustainable energy future, and we’re working hard to develop the technologies and innovations that will address the Administration’s ambitious climate goals of a carbon emissions-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
At NETL, we conduct our research with a goal of having impact. We’re working hard to drive innovation and deliver solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. We’re advancing innovations that will ensure affordable, reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle and enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans. We conduct our research with a goal of making people’s lives better and providing real-world benefits.
For more than 100 years, NETL has served the nation by developing technology solutions to energy challenges. Through the years, these challenges have included mine safety, zirconium production, oil and gas extraction, acid rain mitigation and more. Today, we’re facing an urgent need to address climate change, and NETL has been hard at work developing the technologies needed to mitigate this next energy and environmental challenge.
Over our Lab’s long history of innovation, NETL’s record of success has been built on understanding the future of energy and the technologies required to make that future possible. NETL research effectively took on acid rain through development of scrubber systems, low-NOx burners and selective catalytic reduction technologies that were installed on the nation’s fleet of coal-based power plants. Our research in the 2000s to reduce the cost of mercury control at coal power plants is still protecting our air, water, and wildlife.
Designing the pathway toward a decarbonized economy is a complex undertaking. When engineers and analysts design next-generation energy systems, they must balance the competing goals of meeting environmental and technical constraints, minimizing system cost, and addressing market and policy drivers. Given the sophistication of advanced energy systems and the urgent need for low-carbon energy generation, robust tools are required to ensure that the United States follows an optimal path that balances sometimes competing constraints.
NETL is home to world-class facilities and leading-edge laboratories, but our greatest asset by far is the talented team of researchers and professionals who drive our mission forward and advance technology solutions to address the nation’s energy challenges. An important part of that mission is fostering the next-generation of STEM professionals, from sparks of inspiration to hands-on training in the lab.
It’s Science Bowl season for NETL and our regional teams. This year, NETL is proud to host virtual events for middle school and high school students throughout the state of West Virginia and across western Pennsylvania that test participants on a range of science disciplines and math.
NETL has long been a leader in materials development. Researchers at the Northwest Electrodevelopment Laboratory, which would become NETL’s Albany lab, pioneered the process for producing ductile zirconium, leading to the birth of both the titanium and zirconium industries. They also tested and produced zirconium needed for the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. Today, our materials scientists are world-renowned for their innovation in designing, developing and deploying advanced materials for use in energy applications and extreme service environments.
Throughout 2020, NETL’s talented team was hard at work developing and advancing technologies that will ensure reliable, resilient and affordable energy for America. Now, as we wrap up the first quarter of FY2021, I’m pleased to share with you a few highlights of our recent achievements. For example:
• Our Microwave Ammonia Synthesis process was awarded the 2020 IChemE Global award for its potential to aid in many applications, including those in agriculture and energy, while lowering costs and overall energy use.
As we usher in a new year, I know many people are happy to put 2020 behind us. It’s been a challenging year, but as NETL researchers demonstrated throughout 2020, challenges can ignite progress. For example:
As we close out what has certainly been a year like no other, I’m proud to say that NETL remained highly productive and unwavering in our work to deliver technology solutions to the nation’s energy challenges. Energy underpins every facet of our society, and NETL researchers remain committed to finding ways to use our nation’s resources sustainably and efficiently. The fruits of our work are enabling affordable power generation for healthcare workers, teleworkers, truck drivers, grocery workers and everyone else across our country who persevered through 2020.
The prudent development of our nation’s vast natural gas resources is essential to ensuring the nation’s continued energy resilience, economic strength and energy security. That’s why NETL is working hard to innovate new ways in which we can use the nation’s natural gas resources to maximize the benefit for the American people, including those within the regions where NETL resides, who have been hard hit by the decline in coal demand.
As a forward-looking Laboratory, NETL’s talented team of scientists and engineers drive innovation. The fourth quarter of 2020 was no exception, and we made great strides in advancing technologies that provide affordable, reliable energy to the American people. I’m pleased to share a few examples of our recent successes:
Computational simulation and modeling enable technology development to happen faster than ever before and with lower costs compared to traditional experimental methods alone. Through physics-based simulations, NETL researchers are finding solutions to complex energy challenges faster, cheaper and with fewer materials.
As we look toward autumn and a new fiscal year, we look forward to building on a summer of accomplishment. Throughout the recent months, NETL remained steadfast in our commitment to innovation and developing technology solutions to the nation’s energy challenges. I’d like to share a few of our recent achievements with you.
At NETL, our business is energy innovation and advancing technologies to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. A key aspect of this work is finding ways to make our energy generating systems more efficient, thus lowering their environmental impact. This means developing sensors and materials for harsh environments. It also means optimizing chemical reactions through catalyst development, better reactor design, and fine tuning reaction conditions.
NETL’s work to develop technology solutions to the nation’s energy challenges requires experts across many disciplines and investigations into processes and concepts that can make energy production more efficient and with reduced emissions. Thermal science is a cornerstone of energy research that deals with heat, work and temperature and how these properties relate to important energy topics like combustion, engines cycles, heat exchanges and airfoils on turbine blades.
A key tenet of NETL’s work is to ensure that a clear pathway exists from idea to market. This is a pivotal role in the energy innovation ecosystem. Leading this charge requires an understanding of industry needs along with a firm foundation of innovation. It requires regional and national partnership across the government, industrial and academic sectors. It requires perspectives and insights from experts across these sectors.
At NETL, our researchers continue to aggressively pursue technology solutions to our nation’s energy challenges. From discovering ways to transform fossil fuels into hydrogen and other forms of chemical energy, to investigating ways to apply machine learning and data analytics to design next-generation alloys, NETL is on the leading edge of innovation.
The third quarter of the 2020 fiscal year was no exception. I’m proud to share a selection of accomplishments from this productive quarter. For example:
When people think of coal, they might think of an outmoded fuel from the past and a notorious contributor to climate change. But NETL research is challenging these ideas. The Lab’s research has enabled advances in carbon capture and storage technologies that allow power generation from coal with vastly reduced emissions of carbon dioxide. Coal also offers a resource to create tomorrow’s advanced materials. Our nation’s coal resources are vast, and NETL research is finding innovative ways to sustainably put this important resource to work for America.
NETL has long been at the forefront of developing technology solutions to our nation’s energy challenges. Today’s challenges revolve around ensuring reliable, affordable energy for people around the world, predominately supplied by fossil fuels, while working to minimize emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to global climate change. Energy storage technologies, which contribute to grid stability, reliability and reduced environmental impacts from power generation, are a critical tool in tackling this challenge.
As a federal lab, NETL is committed to excellence in public service. Our research is improving people’s lives by protecting our environment and enhancing our nation’s prosperity through technologies that enable clean, affordable and abundant energy.
Recently, NETL was recognized for its commitment to public service by the Pittsburgh Federal Executive Board, which presented two awards for Excellence in Government to NETL employees.
Despite recent coal-based power plant retirements, coal remains a foundational energy option for our nation contributing nearly one-fourth of electricity generated in 2019. The United States is endowed with vast amounts of coal that can provide affordable, reliable energy to people across the country and around the world. Today’s challenge is finding new ways to use this abundant resource and use it more efficiently and with reduced emissions.
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses or stores it so it will not enter the atmosphere. CCUS is used in processes like enhanced oil recovery to increase the production from oil fields that were previously considered depleted.
Innovation continues at NETL, and our research teams are hard at work developing technologies to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. The research our team pursues is solving real-world challenges and positively impacting lives, from finding economical ways to enable a domestic supply of the materials we reply on for cell phones, computers, defense technologies and more, to advancing innovations that can provide affordable, reliable, near-zero-emission electricity.
Today, we have access to more data than ever before. The challenge in this era of information is how to make sense of the colossal store of data and knowledge. NETL has long been at the forefront of applying advanced computational science tools to solve complex problems. Now, we rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to quickly analyze massive datasets for answers needed to develop technology solutions to America’s energy challenges.
We recently had the honor of sharing NETL’s successes from 2019 with Congressional guests and some of our university partners as we celebrated our third-annual Science & Technology Accomplishments Session, held Feb. 20 at our Pittsburgh site. This year, we showcased 42 achievements during an interactive poster session that highlighted our vital work to ensure affordable, reliable energy for all Americans.
We’re living in the information age, with advances in technology changing the way we live our daily lives. Excellence in science, technology, engineering and math is critical for our nation’s students as they look toward a future that will demand the ability to understand and problem-solve in these areas.
NETL has long been a forward-looking laboratory. In the 1970s, our researchers were investigating gas shales, which were known to be abundant resources, but which were not yet economically feasible. However, knowing the potential existed, researchers pursued technologies that enabled the shale gas boom in the early 2000s. Today, we continue this tradition of looking to the future and seeing the potential of our nation’s resources and our team’s demonstrated ability for cutting-edge innovation.
This is such an exciting time for energy research, and NETL has a central role to play. The work ahead of us has the potential to transform the energy landscape as we pursue technologies that will reshape how we use our abundant natural resources. Let me share a few examples.
It’s hard to believe a full year has passed since I joined NETL. The Lab has long had a reputation as an innovation leader, and over the past year NETL’s talented team of experts has demonstrated the accuracy of this reputation.
A quick look at a few of the Lab’s accomplishments will illustrate why I’m optimistic about the year ahead and the breakthroughs in our future. For example, our team:
As NETL Director, it’s my honor and privilege to tout the innovative work of our talented experts. It’s a particular honor to share how NETL’s work is benefiting our nation and having a global impact. Coal, oil and natural gas provide power to people around the world, but our reliance of fossil fuels means we are also faced with a changing climate as a result of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. NETL researchers have been hard at work to develop technology solutions that will ensure continued access to affordable, reliable energy with responsible stewardship of the environment.
NETL is dedicated to developing energy technology solutions for today and options for tomorrow. Fulfilling that vision requires cultivating a fresh cadre of capable researchers, scientists and engineers ready and willing to tackle America’s most pressing energy challenges — including cybersecurity.
NETL compiled a long list of accomplishments in the fourth quarter of 2019, thanks to the notable talent and hard work of our team members. Among the most outstanding achievements were when:
October is National Energy Awareness Month, when we reflect on the role the energy industry has played in our nation’s success. It’s also a time to look forward to continued energy developments that help our economy and the American people.
As an applied laboratory, NETL’s role is to develop technologies and push them into the market. We work with 900 partners, including those in the energy industry, to reach this goal and tackle large-scale humanitarian challenges of affordable energy worldwide with minimal impact to our air and water.
The recent InnovationXLab Artificial Intelligence Summit demonstrated what a paradigm-shifting development artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become across the Energy Department, accelerating the pace of discovery in nearly every area of research.
Innovation sometimes comes in unexpected forms, like discovering surprising alternative uses for commonplace items. For example, WD40 can be used to revive spark plugs; ketchup can be used to efficiently clean silver jewelry. At NETL, we are working on some impressive, innovative uses for common coal and most have nothing to do with burning it.
Developing technologies that operate on abundant domestic energy sources with responsible stewardship of the environment is a key component of NETL’s mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. That’s why development of a highly efficient electricity generation technology fueled by coal or natural gas with near-zero emissions is an exciting milestone accomplishment.
For decades, mention of fossil energy research conjured images of researchers hard at work with boilers, turbines, electronic sensors, carbon capture mechanisms, coal stockpiles, drilling rigs and a host of other traditional of devices and machinery used to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. Those images are still accurate impressions of NETL’s work. However, these days, the energy research landscape must also include an increasing amount of computerized research activity known as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
School is back in session, and teachers and students are not the only ones returning to the classrooms. NETL’s K-12 STEM Education & Outreach professionals are also going back to school — and bringing exciting “hands-on, minds-on” activities with them.
In its broadest sense, innovation is simply the introduction of something new. For technology developers like NETL, the spark of something new is just the beginning.
Innovations require years of work to become technologies that make a difference in commercial markets and positively benefit the nation, the environment, and our citizens. For example, the favorite invention of innovator Thomas Edison was the phonograph, which he invented in 1877 and continued to improve over the next 50 years.
Collaboration is a proven method to create an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts. Charles Darwin: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” Collaboration is a route to progress and success.
Robust innovation, effective commercialization, exciting new research facilities and dynamic outreach were key milestones in the second quarter of 2019 with a host of NETL successes as evidence. For example:
Constant investigation, experimentation and inquiry lead to effective innovation and improvement. That’s one reason why NETL spearheaded an important research partnership that is expanding our knowledge about unconventional oil and natural gas technologies that have already sparked an economic boom and improved America’s national energy security.
The importance of energy in our lives is never more apparent than when a power failure occurs. Yet, as Indian yoga and meditation guru Paramahansa Yogananda once said, “the season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success.” As the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season begins, NETL is proud to have a dedicated team of employee volunteers committed to helping facilitate the restoration of power and learning from critical outages as part of the Emergency Support Function #12 (ESF #12) program.
NETL is home to world-class talent. Our researchers, scientists and engineers have unmatched expertise that contributes to the Lab’s reputation as the nation’s premier fossil energy science and engineering resource. Facilities provide critical support for this expertise by empowering researchers to push boundaries and enhancing the Lab’s capabilities. NETL’s work to develop technological solutions for America’s energy challenges requires world-class facilities that enable researchers to make breakthrough science and technology discoveries.
At NETL, teams of talented experts are performing sophisticated research in pursuit of innovations to gasification technologies that convert coal into synthetic fuels – improvements that will increase efficiency and lower costs while protecting the environment. We call the field of study “energy conversion engineering.”
When American leaders from academia, industry and government gather at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee Tuesday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 8 to participate in the Department of Energy’s Innovation XLab Advanced Manufacturing Summit, NETL accomplishments, ingenuity and innovation will be a key part of the discussion.
For NETL, the first quarter of 2019 featured a long list of solid research results, prestigious recognitions and aggressive engagement with an energized collection of agencies and organizations across America that are interested in our work to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions that enhance the nation’s energy foundation while protecting the environment.
Here are just a few highlights of our work that occurred between January 1 and April 1, 2019:
Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, and recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete. – Steven Johnson, American popular science author and media theorist.
At NETL, finding good ideas that help deliver cleaner and more efficient ways to use America’s fossil fuel resources are opening new avenues of possibility through scientific innovations and productive collaborations with universities, national laboratories and the private sector.
NETL is truly a national laboratory and the only Department of Energy Laboratory dedicated to fossil energy research. We have critical ongoing energy projects underway in nearly every state. But, we are keenly aware of our obligation and potential to assist in the continued workforce and economic evolution of our original home territory – the coal fields, oil and gas fields, factories, classrooms, and businesses of Appalachia.
NETL develops technologies that enable the environmentally responsible use of America’s domestic energy resources. Part of that work depends on the Lab’s expanding expertise in geological and environmental systems and its ability to monitor and analyze the behavior of the Earth’s natural systems from both the surface and subsurface.
When you have a great story to tell, you need a special place to tell it. For telling stories about the positive impact of NETL’s work, that place is in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, March 12 when I will join a prestigious panel to discuss how innovative technologies emerge from Department of Energy Research.
Nearly 12 years ago, a committee of American leaders commissioned by the National Science Foundation put the final touches on a report called “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” It was an urgent call to action to preserve the nation’s strategic and economic security by creating high-quality jobs for Americans and responding to the nation’s need for clean, affordable, and reliable energy. Much of NETL’s history, focus and vision has been all about answering that call — work that continues at a hectic pace in 2019.
NETL is sponsoring a special webinar 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8 that demonstrates the wisdom of a tried and true proverb: “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together.”
NETL is America’s fossil energy research laboratory, and our researchers are proud to share their vital work through the Lab’s annual Science and Technology Accomplishment Session. Energized by the success of last year’s inaugural event, NETL researchers set ambitious new goals for themselves to further support key research priorities for the Office of Fossil Energy (FE).
Vannevar Bush, FDR’s wartime science advisor had a vision for how to use the nation’s vast research resources after hostilities of World War II ceased. Bush envisioned a system where the results of government research, like the energy work done by the men and women of NETL, would be effectively transferred to private sector entrepreneurs for adaptation to the American commercial market creating jobs and a strong economy.
The people of NETL, an impressive collection of talented researchers, focused contract support personnel, promising young program interns and post-graduate scientists, are poised to broaden and enhance an aggressive pursuit of fossil energy innovation and progress as we enter 2019 – innovation that follows a robust vision that will continue to power the nation’s economic progress, ensure its security, and enhance national prosperity.
Odd traditions are observed at this time of year all over the world to mark the end of the year and to express good wishes for the beginning of a new one. For example: In Denmark, they save all their unused dishes and plates and then shatter them against the doors of friends and family as an expression of best wishes. In Ecuador, they celebrate the New Year by burning paper filled scarecrows at midnight. There’s a village in Peru where residents engage in a mass fist fight to settle differences and then start the year off with a clean slate.
Clemens Winkler, the 19th century German chemist, once quipped that “The world of chemical reactions is like a stage, on which scene after scene is ceaselessly played.” It’s an action-packed simile that’s particularly accurate when applied to much of the work underway at NETL where talented researchers are using sophisticated technologies and approaches to discover new ways to cleanly and efficiently use fossil fuels to keep the nation strong.
NETL is in the problem-solving business, and one of our key researchers may be on to solving a big one that has puzzled American cities for a long time. The Pittsburgh Business Times agrees and that’s why it announced that it will recognize our McMahan Gray with its innovator award later this year for his work on a technology that can filter heavy metals, including lead and other contaminants, from municipal water systems. That’s problem-solving in the NETL tradition.
Throughout human history, coal has been an invaluable resource for heat and light and all the commodities that have played such an important role in advancing our global civilizations. From ancient China to ancient Greece, coal was recognized as a useful and important material. Today, coal continues to fuel our prosperity in new and surprising ways.
There’s more to October than falling leaves and candy. October is National Energy Awareness Month, a time to recognize American innovation and progress toward our nation’s energy independence.
Today marks the beginning of National Clean Energy Week, a timely opportunity to recognize our robust portfolio of research aimed at promoting responsible stewardship of the environment.
Responsible stewardship of the environment is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Energy and a key tenet of NETL’s mission. As we work to produce technological solutions for America’s energy challenges, environmental sustainability remains a driving factor. That’s why our research – from developing innovations for highly efficient energy production, to advancing technologies that enhance the extraction and transmission of domestic resources – is underpinned by innovations that monitor the environment to safeguard our air and water and ensure the safety and health of all Americans.
A big part of NETL’s responsibility is to share knowledge. Sometimes the information we share provides a broader focus to the research data we develop that improves the way our nation uses fossil fuel energy resources. For example, through a recent online webinar, we shared analytical information to help business, industry, and higher education leaders make decisions to better prepare the next generation of energy and manufacturing workers.
There’s an old proverb: “if you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” NETL and the Carnegie Science Center are planning for a lifetime with an updated version of a popular Science Center fixture known as the NETL Energy Zone exhibit.
Nearly all the energy sources that helped build our nation came from deep beneath our feet. The rich subsurface of our planet provides the oil, gas, and coal that fuel our prosperity and build a foundation for future growth. The wealth of domestic resources found in our nation’s subsurface, coupled with advanced energy technologies that enable their efficient use, promote competitiveness across our industry. That’s why cutting-edge research now underway at NETL is focused on maximizing our ability to access the vast domestic resources of the subsurface.
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” wrote Ben Franklin more than 250 years ago. Every year, America invests in knowledge when it supports Department of Energy national labs where some of the best researchers in the world analyze and discover scientific breakthroughs. NETL has joined with its sister national laboratories in a project to make sure that the knowledge we collectively produce pays the best interest, just as Franklin espoused.
For nearly 20 years, the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) program has not only been improving opportunities for under-represented students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), it has also built a diverse foundation of future STEM professionals. That important mission has been bolstered recently through the success of another opportunity called the Consortium for Integrating Energy Systems in Engineering and Science Education (CIESESE).
From an obscure theory to laboratory experiments to practical use in industry, operating rooms, and even outer space, lasers have become a ubiquitous technology device. At NETL, researchers use lasers in a variety of applications in a mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.
Simply put, turbines make the world work. They propel our planes, trains, and ships; allow us to harness the power of wind; and make electricity from abundant fossil energy resources. They help keep lights on, homes warm, and schools, hospitals and industries productive. But at NETL, we believe we can make them even better.
The people of NETL specialize in not only making an impact on better and safer ways to use our nation’s energy resources, they also are making a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens. The Federal Executive Board (FEB) in both Pittsburgh and in Oregon confirmed outstanding examples with significant recognition awards recently.
The great captain of industry Henry Ford once said that, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
That spirit of collaboration resonates strongly here at NETL, as evidenced by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) extension the Laboratory recently executed with the president of the Brazilian Coal Association (BCA).
Designing new efficient power plants that use fossil fuels – America’s most abundant energy resource – to affordably maintain our energy dominance, economic prosperity, and quality of life is a challenging prospect because of how difficult it is to assess and measure aspects of complex energy systems. Simply put, researchers can’t crawl around inside an experimental system to observe first-hand how things work.
Hephaestus was the God of Metallurgy in Greek mythology. He had a pretty good run in ancient stories crafting impenetrable metals for Achilles’ armor, Hercules’ shield, Hermes’ helmet and even arrows for Apollo. At NETL, we take our metallurgy work seriously too, but instead of preparing mythological heroes for battle against make believe monsters, our work is crafting tough new alloys for turbines, boilers, and other equipment that can help meet energy efficiency challenges – heroic achievements as well.
At NETL, we talk a lot about advancing our mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance our nation’s energy foundation while protecting the environment and there are a great many examples of how well we pursue it on this site. But, one of the key ingredients for success is the ability to listen. It’s that input that guides our research and steers our progress.
Here are two examples:
Sometimes, the work of NETL to produce solutions to energy challenges involves much more than the arduous work of researchers in a collection of cutting-edge energy laboratories. Sometimes, it requires a flair for partnering, communicating, analyzing, organizing, and providing access to critical energy data on a global basis. That’s just what the Laboratory accomplished recently with the release of the global oil and gas infrastructure inventory database or GOGI.
More than 135 years ago, Warren Seymour Johnson, a college professor who was frustrated with his inability to regulate the temperature in his classroom, invented what he called the “electric tele-thermoscope.” It was little more than a contraption that rang a bell to alert heating system operators to open or close dampers. It turned out to be the first sensor.
NETL was busy in the first half of March innovating, communicating, and supporting technologies and ideas that help America address energy challenges of today and tomorrow. We hit productive new levels scoring successes, posting research funding opportunities, forging a strong new partnership, and setting new records.
To be associated with NETL and its history of innovating a robust American energy future is an honor itself. To be asked to help lead a cast of very talented people who craft energy innovations every day is a new and exciting challenge that heightens that honor. The people of NETL are special because they each bring high value skills to their teams and their work to support the goals of the Laboratory – to discover, develop and integrate innovative technologies that will help lead and elevate our nation’s safe and productive energy future.
Veteran’s Day is an aptly named, sacred tradition when we express regards and appreciation to the men and women who have answered the nation’s call to duty. At NETL, it is an honor and privilege to work side-by-side with many men and women who actively served with pride and distinction in our armed forces. I am extremely proud of their continuing contributions to energy science as they work at our laboratories in Albany, Pittsburgh, and Morgantown with the kind of dedication and diligence that characterizes service in the U.S. military.
Few things are certain in a changing world, but some things we can be sure of—through the year 2030, our electricity consumption will grow by about one percent a year; fossil fuel will remain a major fuel source for the facilities that produce electricity to meet that demand; and NETL’s work developing lower cost carbon capture and storage technologies will help make producing electricity and chemicals more efficient while enhancing the recovery of oil reserves once thought inaccessible.
Discovery, development and deployment of effective and safe technologies for the recovery of underground energy sources like oil, gas, and the emerging possibilities for gas hydrates in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico are at the heart of NETL’s mission to conduct research for a prosperous American energy future. It’s a mission that has already produced successes, but is poised to create even more opportunities.