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NETL Reaction Engineering team member Jonathan Lekse, Ph.D.
NETL’s work with oxygen carrier technology is making waves in the alternative energy field. The Lab’s material research is cutting costs while maximizing efficiency and contributing to America’s future in clean energy while working to mitigate environmental impact. Specifically, NETL is exercising its world-class expertise through the investigation of special materials known as metal oxides, which are important due to their unique properties and energy applications. These oxides can serve multiple purposes as oxygen carriers, which provide oxygen during gasification.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have issued a Notice of Intent for a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) expected to fund cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects on next-generation coal gasification technologies that have lower capital costs than traditional utility-scale plants. The objective of DE-FOA-0001994, Next Generation Gasifier Concepts and Components to Advance Modular Coal Gasification, is to competitively solicit and award R&D projects that will develop advanced technology that can implement coal gasification processes into small modular systems. FE seeks projects that will also work toward increasing the efficiency of producing coal syngas for applications in power generation or combined heat and power through process and/or reaction intensification. FE’s Gasification Program will support this FOA.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL have announced up to $87.3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects for advanced coal technologies and research. DOE Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg announced this R&D funding at the Annual Project Review Meeting for Crosscutting, Rare Earth Elements, Gasification, and Transformative Power Generation at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. “Coal-fueled power plants are a significant source of electrical power generation in the United States. The goal with these projects is to ensure that the United States can have a fleet of coal-fired power plants that provides stable power generation with operational flexibility, high efficiency, low emissions, and lower costs for consumers,” said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg. “By investing in this R&D, we will enable the United States to continue maximizing its domestic energy resources while protecting our supply of reliable and affordable electricity.” In 2017, coal was the second-largest energy source for electricity generation in the United States. 
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Small-scale, modular power systems offer distinct advantages amid a changing energy landscape. Among other benefits, they expedite technology development, cut investment and operating costs, improve availability, reduce environmental impacts and offer flexibility in meeting location-specific needs. As NETL strives to develop technological solutions to the nation’s energy challenges, the Lab is investigating ways to improve modular systems that convert coal to energy and other useful products through gasification. The combustion-free gasification process relies on chemical reactions to convert coal into clean power, chemicals, hydrogen and transportation fuels within an enclosed space. Gasification also captures carbon for storage or enhanced oil recovery. The addition of pure oxygen enhances gasification systems; however, producing pure oxygen from ambient air within a modular system is a challenge. That’s why scientists at NETL are exploring the use of metal oxides, known as oxygen carriers, which absorb oxygen from the air and release it as a pure oxygen stream.
NETL NEWS
The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is seeking field work proposals (FWPs) from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Laboratory Complex. These FWPS will focus on identifying new concepts and technologies for producing oxygen via air separation for use in flexible, modular gasification systems. The objective of the Laboratory Research Call is to solicit and competitively award research projects to develop air separation technologies to be used in advanced fossil energy-based modular energy systems that will make progress toward enabling cost-competitive, coal-based power generation with near-zero emissions. Air separation technologies developed under FWPs selected through this Laboratory Research Call would eventually find applications in coal-fed, small-scale (1-5 MWe) modular gasification-based power plants.
Refractory Brick
NETL researchers have developed a refractory brick that can increase the service life of refractories that are used to line entrained flow slagging gasifiers, reducing wear from molten mineral impurities (slag) in carbon feedstock, and resulting in reduced replacement costs and an increased gasifier availability and efficiency. The brick is composed primarily of chromium oxide (Cr2O3), aluminum oxide (Al2O3), and carbon (C); and is designed to decrease molten slag corrosion, which is a dissolution of the refractory into the slag and pore penetration that causes spalling—a repetitive wear process where layers of the brick porosity penetrated by slag break off at the slag refractory interface. Corrosion and spalling are the two primary wear mechanisms causing refractory replacement in the high-pressure, high-temperature environment of these types of advanced energy systems.
NETL NEWS
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected nine projects to support the development of advanced technologies that will foster early adoption of small-scale modular coal-gasification. Used for power and other applications, these technologies may open new market opportunities for domestic coal. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage these nine projects. The funding opportunity announcement (FOA), Small-Scale Modularization of Gasification Technology Components for Radically Engineering Modular Systems will support the new projects. This FOA will focus on the development of emerging gasification technologies that can be scaled down to modularization to support program goals using the Radically Engineered Modular Systems (REMS) concept.