NETL’s Hydrogen Research & Development

Clean hydrogen is integral to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen offers significant potential to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in sectors that are difficult to decarbonize such as power generation, heavy duty transportation, chemicals production, and industrial heating.

NETL is working across each area of the hydrogen value chain. Decades of research on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and large-scale fossil fuel production, infrastructure, and power systems positions the Lab to deliver solutions to challenging R&D problems for the hydrogen economy. NETL's expertise spans production, transportation, & storage, and utilization of hydrogen, and is underpinned by strategic analyses and cross-cutting hydrogen needs such as sensors and materials.

Our Expertise


Clean Hydrogen Production

NETL’s R&D is using a variety of feedstocks (natural gas, waste coal, biomass, waste plastic) and processes to reduce the carbon intensity and costs of clean hydrogen production through:

Hydrogen production from water and excess electric power

  • Multi-scale modeling to minimize hydrogen production cost
  • Electrode engineering for durability and reliability

Dry reforming via microwave technology

  • Intensified modular process at point of use
  • Multiple feedstocks

Hydrogen and high-value solid carbon co-products

  • Carbon fiber and carbon nanotube co-products offset hydrogen production cost
  • Eliminates the need for CO2 transport and storage

Optimization and scale-up of traditional and novel reactors

  • Operating on waste coal, biomass, and waste plastic mixtures
  • Turning plastics into hydrogen and removing CO2 along the way

Alternative reforming and gasification technology with inherent CO2 capture and storage

Hydrogen Transport & Storage

NETL is leveraging its research in subsurface and pipelines to solve R&D challenges around the high costs of hydrogen transportation and bulk hydrogen storage—major barriers to a national hydrogen economy.

Pipeline and storage research includes:

  • Subsurface hydrogen storage feasibility and analysis in saline, salt, and depleted well geologic formations
  • Early detection of hydrogen leaks using distributed fiber optic sensors, surface acoustic wave sensors, and/or electrochemical sensors
  • Hydrogen pipeline transport cost model including compression needs for pure or blended hydrogen with natural gas
  • Effects of hydrogen on material performance and developing liners/coatings to repurpose natural gas pipelines for hydrogen or natural gas/hydrogen blends

Hydrogen Utilization

The hydrogen market will grow in all sectors as its availability increases and price lowers.

NETL is studying ways to enable more hydrogen use in transportation, chemical production, electric power, and industrial heating through:

  • Increased combustion efficiency and reduced NOx emissions for hydrogen and ammonia-fueled gas turbines for power production
  • Increased ammonia/hydrogen combustion efficacy and NOx management for industrial heating
  • Solid oxide fuel cells and reversible solid oxide cells operability
  • Microwave-assisted ammonia production from hydrogen
  • Industrial heat (boilers, etc.) feedstock substitution

Cross-cutting Hydrogen Needs

NETL’s research & development that crosses every part of the hydrogen value chain:

  • Alloy development for improved hydrogen resistance
  • Engineering hydrogen resistant surfaces
  • Lifetime prediction modeling for materials in hydrogen service
  • High hydrogen sensitivity and selectivity
  • Ambient and harsh environments
  • Hydrogen safety
  • Environmental impact
  • Long-distance optical fiber sensors
  • Passive wireless sensors
  • Electrochemical sensors
  • Public access to data and models from DOE hydrogen projects to accelerate hydrogen commercial, regulatory, social, and environmental goals

Strategic Analysis

NETL analytical and assessment capabilities includes hosting over 140 scientists and staff to evaluate and de-risk system designs and provide systematic decision-making to balance the competing goals of costs and decarbonization. This world-class systems analysis is used to evaluate the deployment, integration, and operability of the technologies and the hydrogen economy. Our cross-cutting institutional experience includes:


Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA): Nationally recognized expertise, models and databases that address greenhouse gas (GHG) and other pollutants at all parts of the fossil hydrogen supply chain


Integrated Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA): Evaluates capital, tax benefits, supply chain, infrastructure, operating cost, and technology financial performance and integration from hydrogen production through end use


Market competitiveness and benefit assessment: Apply energy economy assessments and evaluate the market impacts of hydrogen technologies, as well as market interplay and infrastructure constraints or opportunities


Technology and integrated system optimization: Expertise in engineering, operations research, statistics and applied mathematics to support decision-making for the design and operation of multi-input, multi-output hydrogen technologies and accompanying systems


Transport and storage configurations: Amassed knowledge and newly introduced cost model in pure hydrogen pipelines as well as leadership of the Subsurface Hydrogen Assessment, Storage, and Technology Acceleration (SHASTA) project to evaluate economic and technical aspects of hydrogen storage in depleted wells, and salt and saline formations

OCED Hubs Blueprint


NETL developed several tools that help partners conduct research or improve processes related to hydrogen. They are available for public use.

SHASTA H2 storage state of play
NETL leads the consortia that develops underground storage cost models and manages research, e.g., recent reservoir dynamics when converting natural gas fields to underground hydrogen storage.

CO2 saline storage cost model
CO2 subsurface storage assessments that consider existing regional assets with necessary invested infrastructure. Also estimates the national subsurface hydrogen assessment, storage, and technology acceleration.

LCA of the natural gas supply chain
Helps minimize upstream GHG emissions from feedstock specific to the applicable natural gas basins and delivery routes.

Learn more about Hydrogen with Carbon Management and our Natural Gas Decarbonization and Hydrogen Technologies Programs.