Back to Top
Skip to main content
Marcellus Shale
The 104,000-square mile Marcellus natural gas trend—the largest source of natural gas in the United States—was once considered to have inconsequential natural gas potential until new technologies helped industry access an estimated 141 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas. Because more research is required to more completely realize the rich potential of Marcellus Shale natural gas, NETL is helping discover safe and effective natural gas recovery innovations with its work on the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL).
Gulf of Mexico
An NETL-sponsored team led by the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) has recovered the first pressurized cores from a gas hydrate reservoir in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico—a key step in opening the door to a vast untouched natural gas resource. Gas hydrates are crystal structures that form under specific conditions of low temperature and high pressure, in which frozen water creates a cage that traps methane molecules. Because methane is a clean burning energy source, understanding the potential of this resource is an important goal for NETL—the only national laboratory devoted to fossil energy research Retrieving the samples while keeping them pressurized will allow researchers at NETL, UT-Austin, and many other laboratories across the country to make breakthroughs in understanding the nature, occurrence and physio-chemical behavior of gas hydrate systems as well as the Gulf of Mexico hydrate potential.
On November 30, 2017, Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, spoke at the 2017     U.S.–China Clean Coal Industry Forum at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown, West Virginia. The biennial forum is jointly organized by the Department of Energy and China’s National Energy Administration. The two-day event featured dialogue between the two nations that addressed challenges related to development and deployment of clean coal technologies and strategies. Forum participants—including leaders from industry, government, academia, media, consulting firms, and non-governmental organizations—discussed ways to address changes in coal use, examine industry challenges, and ultimately promote international cooperation, leading to research and development partnerships and expanded business opportunities between the two countries.
Pioneering research at NETL on the use of microwaves to create the chemical reactions necessary to transform stranded natural gas resources into usable natural gas liquids and methane is serving as the springboard for more intensive work with long-time NETL academic partner West Virginia University (WVU). NETL researchers Dave Berry and Dushyant Shekhawat have been experimenting with microwave chemistry as part of their efforts to increase production and reduce the time and cost of converting hydrocarbon fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas into marketable chemicals and products. The work advances processes to apply microwave radiation to enhance the chemical reactions that cause the conversions. The University of Pittsburgh and Shell are also participating in the effort. Application of successful microwave catalysis can lead to production of chemicals from gas resources once considered physically or economically stranded—like flaring in a shale oil field or shale gas in hard-to-reach locations. Converting those gases to value-added liquid products could reduce the United States’ demand for crude oil by up to 20 percent.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has found high rare earth element (REE) concentrations in coal samples taken from the Illinois, Northern Appalachian, Central Appalachian, Rocky Mountain Coal Basins, and the Pennsylvania Anthracite region. These highly concentrated samples are greater than 300 parts per million (ppm). “Rare Earth Elements are vital to the development and manufacturing of high-tech devices such as computers, cell phones, and our national defense systems,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “The current difficulties and high expenses associated with REE extraction has left the U.S. dependent on foreign REE imports. Supporting innovative research and development to establish efficient, cost-effective REE extraction methods is critical to our country’s energy and national security.” Concentrations of rare earths at 300 ppm are integral to the commercial viability of extracting REEs from coal and coal by-products, making NETL’s finding particularly significant in the effort to develop economical domestic supplies of these elements.
Accepting a 2017 R&D 100 Award at festivities in Orlando, FL are team members, left to right, Bob Dilmore of NETL, Elizabeth Keating of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Grant Bromhal of NETL, and Phil Stauffer of LANL. The team’s product, the National Risk Assessment Partnership Toolset, was designated as one of the top 100 technologies of the year.
An innovative computational toolkit developed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in collaboration with a team from other national laboratories, has been recognized by R&D Magazine as one of the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace in the past year. The award-winning National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) Toolset is a software package that includes 10 science-based computational tools that predict environmental risk performance of geologic carbon dioxide (CO2) storage sites. NRAP, led by NETL, brings together expertise from other contributing Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Texas Hydrogen Production Plant
A large-scale project, made possible through NETL support, is capturing about one million tons of carbon dioxide per year from a state-of-the-art hydrogen production facility in Texas and forging a successful new direction for hydrogen production technology. There are two forms of hydrogen production: on-purpose hydrogen production using steam methane reformers (SMR), and hydrogen production as a byproduct of other chemical processes. SMR is a process that heats methane in natural gas with steam and a catalyst, to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Process streams in the SMR plants contain carbon dioxide at concentrations that are amenable to effective use of conventional adsorption and emerging carbon capture technologies. DOE partnered with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. to advance this first-of-a-kind retrofit system to capture carbon from large-scale industrial SMR plants. NETL and Air Products co-managed the project.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $5.5 million in federally funded financial assistance for cost-shared research and development projects under the first phase of the Office of Fossil Energy’s funding opportunity announcement (FOA) Advanced Components for 65% Combined-Cycle Efficiency, SCO2 Power Cycles and Advanced Modular Hybrid Heat Engines. Selected projects will support DOE’s Advanced Coal and Power Systems goals by developing advanced, highly efficient, turbine-based technologies applicable to fossil fuels, including coal-derived synthesis gas, coal-derived hydrogen, and natural gas. The projects will be managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory. The FOA focuses on three areas of interest (AOIs):
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected 12 crosscutting research projects to receive $8.6 million in federal funding. The projects will develop innovative technologies that will enhance the efficiency of fossil energy power systems. Selected through funding opportunity announcement DE-FOA-0001686, Innovative Technology Development to Enable and Enhance Highly Efficient Power Systems, the projects are expected to make significant and cost-effective progress toward achieving step-change benefits for electric generating units and industrial plants that use fossil fuels. The newly selected projects join the research portfolio of the Department’s Crosscutting Technology Research Program, which serves as a bridge between basic and applied research by fostering research and technology development in sensors and controls, modeling and simulation, and high-performance materials. FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the projects, which fall under five areas of interest and are described below: Area of Interest 1: ImPOWER—Improvements to Coal Combustion Power Plants
ADM’s agricultural processing and biofuels plant, Decatur, Ill. Image courtesy of ADM
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has collaborated with industry in cost-sharing arrangements to advance the next generation of technologies that will capture carbon from industrial sources and either store or beneficially re-use them. Some of these technologies have advanced to a scale that can be readily replicated and deployed into industry. Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) has made significant progress in advancing carbon capture and storage technologies and started large-scale geological storage of carbon in April 2017. NETL manages the ADM project. Additional project partners include Schlumberger Carbon Services, Illinois State Geological Survey, and Richland Community College.