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Over the last 10 years, the NETL-led National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) has built industrial confidence and worked to accelerate the commercial deployment of large-scale geologic carbon storage (GCS), which will allow for the continued use of abundant fossil fuels in an environmentally responsible manner by safely and permanently storing carbon dioxide from industrial sources deep underground. Now well into its second phase, NRAP is expanding its award-winning toolset and forging new collaborations that will continue to improve the initiative’s ability to address critical questions of GCS risk management.
Placed end to end, the total length of the rock core samples scrutinized last year by NETL researcher Dustin Crandall, Ph.D., and his colleagues would span roughly 10 football fields. Driving much of that impressive volume is the need to complete rock core characterization studies to support large-scale geologic carbon sequestration and to make that data available to the public. NETL supports projects to safely and permanently store carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants and other industrial sources by injecting it into deep underground reservoirs capped by layers of non-porous rock. These efforts not only reduce emissions of greenhouse gases; they also support continued use of abundant fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas in an environmentally responsible manner.
A new iteration of NETL's CO2-SCREEN software application is enabling researchers to more accurately estimate carbon dioxide storage potential in previously overlooked locations, opening the door for carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) projects on a large scale, along with new enhanced oil recovery operations. Originally developed to estimate prospective carbon dioxide (CO2) storage potential in saline and shale formations, the latest version of the Lab's CO2-SCREEN (Storage prospeCtive Resource Estimation Excel aNalysis) tool can be used for estimations in residual oil zones (ROZs), which can serve as valuable sites for CCUS projects. ROZs are deposits of immobile oil typically found underneath conventional reservoirs. These reservoirs have essentially been "waterflooded” by nature — natural water movement through the reservoir, pushing the oil in the direction of production wells. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates ROZs could contain 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil, representing a substantial yet underutilized source of domestic energy.
As a testbed for new innovations on the road to commercialization, the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) has proved vital to NETL’s work in developing technologies that lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the nation’s coal and natural gas power plant fleet. The Lab’s Research and Innovation Center developed transformational solvent, sorbent, and membrane carbon capture technologies and the NCCC could provide critical industrial-scale testing. For example, NETL used its revolutionary computational framework to screen more than a million mixed matrix membranes (MMM) and to identify promising MMMs for post-combustion carbon capture. These membranes are now being scaled up for demonstration at the NCCC, advancing their commercial feasibility.
FOA Logo
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have announced up to $131 million for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) research and development (R&D) projects through one new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and the winners of five project selections from a previous FOA.  Under the new FOA, Engineering-Scale Testing from Coal- and Natural-Gas-Based Flue Gas and Initial Engineering Design for Industrial Sources, DOE is making up to $46 million available for cost-shared R&D projects that capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources.  CCUS is often viewed in the context of power production. However, capture and storage of CO2 from industrial sources is also vitally important to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Growing up outside Detroit, Katharina “Katy” Daniels and her sisters were encouraged to pursue their dreams, even if it meant choosing a career in a field such as engineering where opportunities for women traditionally have been limited. “Fortunately, I never had any reason to think there was a limitation on what I wanted to become,” said Daniels, a general engineer who joined NETL’s Carbon Capture Team in June. Daniels’ parents, Lucinda and Michael Bellairs, urged their daughter to read and explore her early interests, which included rock and bug collections. In addition, they made sure Bring Your Child to Work Day was always a meaningful, hands-on experience. “My mother was a computer technician who installed servers. I enjoyed spending the day taking apart computers or checking out circuit boards,” said Daniels. “I looked forward to it every year.” Those early lessons have paid big dividends.
A recently released report, “Safe Geologic Storage of Captured Carbon Dioxide: Two Decades of DOE’s Carbon Storage R&D Program in Review” dives into how the department and NETL and other national laboratories, research organizations, and industry stakeholders have worked collaboratively to meet the challenge of addressing the emission of greenhouse gases while ensuring the continued use of fossil fuels that underpin our nation’s economic prosperity. One of the most successful pillars of DOE’s Carbon Storage Program is the NETL-managed Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP) Initiative, which began in 2003 with a characterization phase that focused on collecting and analyzing data on potential reservoirs and assembling resources to test CO2 storage. This effort culminated in the development of a standard, consistent methodology for assessing geologic reservoirs and estimating the volumes of CO2 that could be stored, an effort led by NETL. The methodology has since been applied in a series of Carbon Storage Atlases for the U.S. and portions of Canada.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL announced plans to provide up to $22 million for research aimed at achieving breakthroughs in the effort to capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air.  The initiative encompasses two concurrent funding announcements—one by DOE’s Office of Science (SC) and another by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE)—and will span the spectrum from fundamental research in materials and chemical sciences to field testing of prototypes.  “Accelerating success in direct air capture of carbon dioxide would strengthen America’s energy security and open new avenues for commercial applications,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “While we’ve seen real progress in this field, both basic and applied research are needed to develop highly effective direct air capture technologies on a large scale.”
Brian Anderson
NETL Director Brian Anderson shared the Lab’s contributions in addressing America’s long-term energy challenges while retaining environmental integrity at a gathering of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Energy Initiative. Anderson highlighted NETL’s advances in cost-effective implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies throughout the power-generation sector to ensure Americans continue to have access to clean, affordable and reliable energy. He also explained how NETL’s core competencies can be applied to many fields beyond fossil fuels. “If you’re a good geoscientist, you can apply your skills in geothermal, carbon sequestration, oil & gas recovery, nuclear waste storage or even seismic predictions. We do the same,” Anderson said. “The message I wanted to get across is that we’re more than just a fossil energy laboratory. Yes, we’re the fossil energy laboratory, but we’re applying our expertise across many energy sectors.” Anderson’s presentation at MIT focused on the Lab’s efforts to lower the nation’s costs of addressing carbon emissions with the right techniques and technologies.
NETL has released an informative carbon capture infographic that highlights the role of advanced manufacturing in driving down capture costs and how it can improve process performance. Additive manufacturing, using 3D printing, enables the development of components for carbon capture equipment that intensify heat and mass transfer, improve process performance and reduce overall equipment size, lowering capital and operating costs.