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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL intends to make approximately $122 million available, through a competitive process, to establish coal products innovation centers. The innovation centers will focus on manufacturing value-added, carbon-based products from coal, as well developing new methods to extract and process rare earth elements and critical minerals from coal.  “It’s vitally important that America develop a viable domestic supply of rare earth elements, critical minerals, and other valuable products from our vast coal resources,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “This effort moves us closer to that goal. The Trump Administration has been aggressively investing in research and development for novel uses of coal that have the potential to create new markets for coal and coal byproducts. Sustaining domestic coal production creates new economic opportunity for coal state economies and benefits the Nation.”
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected 12 projects to receive approximately $6 million in federal funding to support high-risk fundamental research that advances the science of coal technology at U.S. colleges and universities. These projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002193, University Training and Research for Fossil Energy Applications. This FOA encompasses two separate university programs: the University Coal Research (UCR) Program and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Other Minority Institutions (HBCU/OMI) Program. Each program has its own requirements and restricted eligibility. Projects under this FOA support early-stage, fundamental research that advances the science of coal technologies, while also helping train the next generation of energy researchers, scientists, and engineers at U.S. colleges and universities. The HBCU/OMI program aims to increase the participation of underrepresented students in that research.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have announced its intention to commit approximately $81 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects through the release of the draft funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002180, Design Development and System Integration Design Studies for Coal FIRST Concepts. The draft FOA has been issued so that interested parties are aware of DOE’s intention to issue the finalized FOA later this summer. Projects resulting from the finalized FOA will support DOE’s Coal FIRST initiative.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have issued a request for proposal (RFP) as an unrestricted, full, and open competition for the conceptual design of a system to produce 1–3 tonnes per day of mixed rare earth oxides or rare earth salts from domestic coal and coal by-product feedstocks. The proposal also includes an option to conduct a feasibility study sufficient to support an AACE Class 4 cost estimate to assess the technical and economic feasibility of the approach identified in the conceptual design. The contract award(s) resulting from this RFP will be firm-fixed-price.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have announced up to $14 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002185, Advanced Coal Processing Technologies. The FOA seeks applications for the research and development of coal-derived products as building materials and infrastructure components, as well as other value-added, coal-derived carbon products. The FOA seeks applications for the research and development of technologies capable of continuously producing a carbon foam from a coal-derived feedstock. Additionally, the FOA seeks to support the application, validation, and integration of several carbon-based building products into carbon building structures.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected one project to receive approximately $1.5 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development under the second closing of funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002001, Crosscutting Research for Coal-Fueled Power Plants.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL has announced up to $4 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002190, Research for Innovative Emission Reduction Technologies Related to Coal Combustion Residuals. Coal combustion residuals (CCRs) consist primarily of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum and other FGD-solid by-products, as well as fluidized bed combustor ash from pulverized coal-fired power plants and other combustion-based coal power plants. CCRs constitute one the largest classes of industrial by-products generated in the United States. R&D under this FOA aims to economically increase the beneficial use and advance the management of CCRs, thereby reducing the volume of CCRs needed to be disposed of in impoundments while protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects selected through this FOA. The FOA focuses on two areas of interest (AOIs):
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL has selected three additional projects to receive approximately $3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects. These projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001992, Maximizing the Coal Value Chain.   The projects will develop innovative uses of domestic coal for upgraded coal-based feedstocks used to produce power and to make steel and high-value products—ultimately creating new market opportunities for coal. These projects will support FE’s Advanced Energy Systems Program. DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the projects, which are described below.
Power Plant
Fossil energy is vital to the nation’s security, with coal serving as the fuel that produces nearly 30% of U.S. electricity. To ensure the continued success of this critical energy resource, NETL is funding advanced research to modernize the grid and improve the efficiency of the existing coal-fired power plant fleet, which strengthens the reliability of all our electricity generation. In coal and other fossil fuel-based power plants, high-pressure, high-temperature steam drives turbines that spin electricity-producing generators. After exiting the turbine, steam moves through the condenser where it’s converted back into liquid so it can be re-heated and re-pressurized to be used again. Condenser performance is largely dependent on how efficiently cold tubes cool the steam and condense it back to liquid. When steam contacts the metal tubes, a film or condensation can form. This layer acts as an insulator between the cold metal and steam, limiting heat transfer and lowering efficiency.
Coal Resources
In an effort that could ultimately help create new jobs and markets for coal, NETL researchers have developed a low-cost, coal-derived cement additive that could lead to the construction of stronger and more durable roads and buildings. Drawing upon their experience in converting coal to advanced materials and products, the NETL team has taken a new approach to synthesizing graphene, a unique form of carbon only one atom thick. When added to cement, graphene imparts significant molecular-level improvements to the material’s mechanical strength, electrical conductivity and overall durability. “By using abundant coal feedstocks, we are synthesizing graphene that is 50­–100 times less expensive than the usual method of using graphite,” said Yuan Gao, Ph.D., who works on NETL’s functional materials team. “Graphene created from graphite is too expensive to be feasible for commercial-scale cement applications, but our lower-cost, coal-derived graphene represents a critical first step for commercialization.”