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Harsh Environments
The inside of today’s energy systems host some of the harshest environments anywhere on the planet, and the faults, fractures, and carbon dioxide plumes deep underground present an array of challenges for resource recovery. Sophisticated sensors help energy systems to operate more efficiently, and assist in recovering underground oil and gas. However, creating sensors that can withstand these formidable environments is a challenge. NETL is on the task. Sensors are detectors that can measure physical quantities like temperature and pressure. The sensors convert measurements into a signal that communicates with an electronic device that is read by operators who take actions to adjust conditions if necessary.
Ten years ago, NETL concluded work on its mercury control program – one of its most successful and productive research programs, and one that culminated in highly effective technologies that are now widely used throughout the entire power generation sector, protecting our waters and wildlife. In just slightly more than 15 years, the Lab brought mercury capture technology from a concept to commercial deployment – a process that generally takes two or more decades. The key to this success was the program’s highly productive public-private partnerships with academia, industry, other research organizations, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today, mercury control technologies developed under the NETL program are installed on more than half of the coal-fired power generation fleet, protecting our health and our environment while contributing to U.S. energy security through domestic energy production.
CCSI logo set
The Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI), led by the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), released the CCSI Toolset as open source software. The CCSI Toolset is the nation’s only suite of computational tools and models designed to help maximize learning and reduce cost and risk during the scale-up process for carbon capture technologies. The toolset is critically important to perform much of the design and calculations, thus reducing the cost of both pilot projects and commercial facilities. The release makes the toolset code available for researchers in industry, government, and academia to freely use, modify, and customize in support of the development of carbon capture technologies and other related technologies. The toolset is hosted on GitHub. Since the release of CCSI’s first toolset in 2012, the initiative exceeded goals, and earned an R&D 100 Award – an "Oscar of Innovation" – as one of the top 100 technology products of 2016. The major capabilities of the CCSI Toolset include:
Spray Coater
Supporting domestic energy and technologies that produce efficient, affordable power with responsible stewardship of the environment are top priorities for NETL. Our researchers are examining new innovations that can provide clean, efficient energy from coal, natural gas, and oil. But the path from discovery to commercialization can take decades. So how do decision makers choose which breakthrough technologies have the potential to thrive in the commercial market and bring lasting benefit? One specialty of NETL’s Research & Innovation Center – systems engineering and analysis – seeks to help answer that question. The Laboratory’s Energy Process Analysis team conducts techno-economic analyses to evaluate a technology’s economic feasibility.
Kids help the Environment
Most people care about the environment, but wonder, “What can I do to help?” For this Earth Day, April 22, NETL has created a video showing that everyone can help keep their earth the best place to live in the galaxy. The new video, “Nine Ways Kids Can Help the Environment,” highlights fun activities for young and old, such as recycling, upcycling, and planting a garden. After watching the video, children can complete an Earth Day themed word search, coloring activity, and more on an activities page developed by NETL. All of the activities promote an ongoing, helpful relationship with the Earth. NETL participates in a wide variety of educational outreach activities to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) literacy and to educate the next generation of America’s energy researchers. To explore NETL’s commitment to STEM education visit the education section at the top of this page.
Lines represent climatologically persistent sea-surface trajectories that attract nearby trajectories. Red means increased attraction strength while white means negligible attraction, which in turn implies isolation or stagnation. These lines tend to organize transport at the sea surface.
NETL has been at the forefront of research to make offshore energy production safer and more efficient ever since the Lab helped assess the Macondo Oil Spill in 2010. Now, a component of that expertise is front and center in a new article appearing March 26 in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports, released by Nature Publishing Group.  The article, entitled “Extracting Quasi-Steady Langrangian Transport Patterns from the Ocean Circulation: An Application to the Gulf of Mexico,” describes an advanced new metocean modeling tool and approach for extracting likely patterns in ocean circulation. Metocean refers to a geographic location’s combined oceanographic and metereological conditions, such as ocean currents, sea-level changes, storm surges, tides, wind waves, stratification, ice, wind, air temperature, humidity and the occurrence and strength of typhoons and hurricanes. These predictions can help guide offshore infrastructure design, reduce operational costs, and provide critical data for assessing offshore oil spill modeling risks.
Photo: Courtesy of NOAA.
A new analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) indicates that continued retirement of fossil fuel power plants could have an adverse impact on the nation’s ability to meet power generation needs during future severe weather events. A winter storm, known as a “bomb cyclone,” struck much of the eastern United States between December 27, 2017, and January 8, 2018, plunging the region into a deep freeze and sparking a significant rise in the demand for additional power for heat. Coal provided a majority of the daily power generation required to meet the emergency, according to the study. The report analyzes fossil fleet performance and its contribution to power system reliability and resilience during the bomb cyclone event. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, bomb cyclones occur when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies or quickly drops in atmospheric pressure, marking the strengthening of a storm—essentially a winter hurricane. The event that occurred during December and January plunged temperatures to record lows in some areas accompanied by high winds.
World Water Day
Water is an essential resource for human life. It’s also a key component of energy production. In celebration of World Water Day, we’re sharing some of our innovative water conservation projects. For example, thermoelectric power generation accounts for more than 40 percent of freshwater withdrawals and more than 3 percent of freshwater consumption. That adds up to billions of gallons of water per day. As populations grow and economic development continues to expand, so too will our energy demand and water consumption.
City of Pittsburgh
With technical support from NETL, the City of Pittsburgh has drawn national attention for the strides it is making in becoming an energy Smart City. Now, through a partnership involving the University of Pittsburgh and the City’s Office of Resiliency, NETL is participating in a new international effort to broaden thinking about energy innovation and urban development. The University recently signed a partnership agreement to collaborate with the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate Change to exchange ideas and plans for implementing district energy infrastructure and smart city technologies. During a special invitation-only workshop at the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Innovation Center today and tomorrow, NETL representatives will help discuss new research and approaches for helping Pittsburgh and Denmark in efforts to become global leaders in energy innovation and urban development. Copenhagen is Denmark’s capital and sits on the coastal islands of Zealand and Amager. Like Pittsburgh, its economy has seen rapid development in the service sector, especially through initiatives in information technology, pharmaceuticals, and clean technology.
Process Systems Engineering Image
The need for improvement drives innovation, and the work of NETL’s Process Systems Engineering (PSE) Research team is a significant example of how that adage meets reality. The team is keenly focused on optimizing today’s fossil-fuel-based power plants while planning for tomorrow’s complex energy markets - efforts that could usher in new jobs and lower the cost of electricity. NETL has already received international attention for its development and use of advanced PSE models and computational tools to support decision-making and analysis, and those capabilities continue to grow.