Back to Top
Skip to main content
 
 
 
Dr. Mengling Stuckman
An NETL collaboration with the University of Wyoming to develop technologies and methods for extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from coal ash is taking a major step forward with a recently awarded grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Technology Commercialization Fund. The project will work toward scaling up a patent-pending extraction technology developed by NETL researchers Christina Lopano, Ph.D., and Mengling Stuckman, Ph.D., and will ultimately result in a pilot-scale production facility. By demonstrating the economically viable production of rare earth elements from coal-related feedstocks, the project has potential to launch a new industry in extracting critical REE materials from the ash of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coals. 
Photos provided by Brad Deel, EnerVest Operating, LLC.
An NETL-supported project has provided researchers with core samples and other valuable subsurface data to assess natural gas resources in deep untapped reservoirs in Central Appalachia and evaluate potential extraction methods that would leave a light environmental footprint while creating needed jobs in a region significantly impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.  The Central Appalachian region (southern West Virginia, southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky) is known for hydrocarbon resources such as coal, but it is also home to abundant unconventional gas resources, including coalbed methane, shale gas and other low permeability natural gas and oil formations. Many of these gas resources are vertically stacked so that a single well drilled to a depth of 15,000 feet could produce simultaneously from multiple reservoirs located at various depths throughout the rock strata. The goal of NETL’s Emerging Stacked Unconventional Plays (ESUP) project is to investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi-play production in these emerging unconventional reservoirs.
Mechanical Energy Storage Technology Presents Opportunities for Savings and Energy Flexibility
DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy is working through its new Advanced Energy Storage Program to improve and foster the widespread use of energy storage integrated with fossil energy applications leading to facility flexibility, power grid resiliency, cost savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. One class of energy storage technology with potential for long durations and integrating with fossil assets is mechanical energy storage. Mechanical energy storage takes excess or low-cost energy and converts it into potential energy for subsequent discharge to the grid. As an example, Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) technology may offer an easy means of storage and power generation. It uses off-peak cheap electricity to compress air and store it in a pressurized storage reservoir. When electricity is needed at peak demand, the air is withdrawn, combusted, and expanded to drive an electric generator. With this system, air can be pre-heated by recovering heat from the compressor train or by burning fuel, such as natural gas, to improve efficiency.
NOI Logo
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.”
Briggs White
Energy storage can dramatically improve the efficiency of the nation’s existing fleet of fossil fuel-fired power plants, reduce emissions of greenhouse gas and help ensure a secure grid as more intermittent renewables (solar and wind power) are added to it, according to NETL Technology Manager Briggs White, Ph.D. During a recent webinar held as part of ELECTRIC POWER Expo 2020, White outlined those and other benefits that the Advanced Energy Storage Program, established by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE), is expected the generate. White also highlighted NETL’s development of data analytics, technologies for low-load operations and other advancements that have improved the efficiency of fossil assets.  
super computer
According to the latest rankings by TOP500, NETL’s Joule 2.0 supercomputer remains among the most powerful in the world, securing a position of 24th in the United States and 70th in the world. Supercomputing is essential in achieving NETL’s mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions that enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. By expediting technology development through computational science and engineering, Joule 2.0 helps NETL cut costs, save time and spur valuable economic investments with a global impact. A $16.5 million upgrade in 2019 boosted Joule’s computational power by nearly eight times, enabling researchers to tackle more challenging problems as they work to make more efficient use of the nation’s vast fossil fuel resources.
Briggs White
NETL Technology Manager Briggs White, Ph.D., will share his expertise about challenges facing the nation’s fleet of fossil fuel-burning power plants and how energy storage can address them during an ELECTRIC POWER Expo 2020 webinar at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. White will discuss the current state of the nation’s fleet of fossil energy (coal and natural gas) electric generating stations and highlight U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects that aim to resolve challenges facing the fleet. He also will explain the benefits of integrating energy storage technologies with these fossil assets as part of the Advanced Energy Storage Program, an initiative of DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy.
Performance alloys
A new NETL report explores opportunities to leverage high-performance alloy (HPA) research supported by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) beyond coal-fired power plants and expand into industrial gas turbines as well as adjacent markets that require similar materials, such as the aerospace, industrial and chemical processing and automotive industries. HPAs are metals that display superior characteristics in high temperature and corrosive environments. Expensive to develop and produce, HPAs enable power plant processes to run at higher temperatures and pressures, improving performance and efficiency. These materials are critical to plant reliability under cyclic operation and have long been a key area of research for NETL and its partners. According to the report, the global HPA market generated more than $4 billion revenue in 2016, which is expected to climb to $7.6 billion in 2023. The largest application of HPAs is aerospace, followed by industrial gas turbines, industrial and chemical processing, and automotive. Together, these industries make up 92.5 percent of the current HPA market.
John B
Today’s U.S. electricity grid consists of millions of miles of transmission lines that bring power to hundreds of millions of electricity customers across the country, so ensuring the security and reliability of this vital infrastructure is a top concern for NETL. The Lab continues to advance energy storage technologies for future deployment, but grid reliability also requires an understanding of the interaction between various sources of electrical power, especially during periods of increased demand like severe weather events. Energy Markets Analysis team member John Brewer is an engineer who dedicates much of his time at the Lab supporting this goal through valuable analyses of programs and technologies for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE). Brewer has worked as an engineer at the Lab for more than 10 years (6 as a contractor and 5 as a federal employee), but engineering wasn’t always his first choice.
Battelle Memorial Institute and Rare Earth Salts recovered a Lanthanum rare earth oxide at a purity of about 90% from domestic coal ash resources.
An NETL-supported collaboration demonstrated favorable results that showed potential toward developing an environmentally benign and economically sustainable process for generating rare earth element (REE) products from domestic coal ash sources, marking a step forward in enabling a domestic supply of these critical materials. As part of an NETL-funded cooperative agreement, Battelle Memorial Institute (BMI) and Rare Earth Salts (RES) worked together to advance the development and validation of BMI’s acid digestion process, along with RES’s novel electrowinning separation and purification process. Acid digestion is a method of making metals easier to separate by first dissolving a coal ash sample into solution by adding acids and heating it until the metals break away from the other undesired materials.  Electrowinning is a process in which metal ions present in a solution are separated using a direct current.