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Two NETL employees were selected as 2020 Pittsburgh Federal Executive Board (FEB) Excellence in Government Gold Award winners for their contributions to both the Lab and the community in 2019. The FEB Excellence in Government Awards recognize current military, postal, and federal civilian employees for their individual and team accomplishments both in the workplace and the community during the previous year. Winners from NETL were nominated in the Diversity and Inclusion and Community Service categories. Tim Florian, Equal Employment Opportunity manager, reshaped NETL’s Diversity & Inclusion program to make training and programs offerings more available, thought-provoking and relevant in 2019. He championed a “cafeteria-style” approach to employee trainings by providing an expanded menu of shorter programs that are held with greater frequency, which helps increase employee knowledge of different diversity and inclusion issues.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prioritized the creation of a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs), and one of NETL’s supported projects that may provide these vital resources using the nation’s abundant coal supplies has demonstrated favorable results. As part of an NETL-funded cooperative agreement, researchers from the University of Utah and Virginia Tech evaluated a new, low-cost technology to extract and recover an enriched, mixed REE oxide (REO) product from coal-based resources. The project team successfully obtained six different coal waste samples with REE concentrations that exceeded the project’s requirement.
The U.S. energy industry has been an economic powerhouse, employing 8.27 million workers in 2019 and creating jobs at rates 50% faster than the rest of the economy for the past five years. But what does the future hold, especially during this period of economic volatility? Find out at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21, when NETL’s Regional Workforce Initiative holds a free webinar to discuss the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER). The webinar will feature David Foster, distinguished associate, Energy Futures Initiative, and lead author of the 2020 USEER. Topics to be reviewed include the current state of the energy and advanced manufacturing workforce for the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia), the broader Appalachian region and the nation, as well as emerging trends such as the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on energy and manufacturing jobs.  
fire in the ice
NETL recently released the spring 2020 edition of Fire in the Ice, which features various projects and initiatives supported by the program. A periodic newsletter published by NETL’s Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program, the latest volume of Fire in the Ice, features Claire McKinley, a recipient of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences/NETL Methane Hydrate Research Fellowship. The Portland, Oregon native is the 11th recipient of the fellowship, which was created in 2007 to support highly qualified graduate and postgraduate scientists engaged in research on gas hydrates. The award will help fund two years of her research on “Evaluating the Extent of Microbial Fe-Reduction and its Role in the Global Methane Cycle.” The latest issue of Fire in the Ice also features research by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, LLNL USGS, and the University of Texas at Austin. Research focuses on developing techniques for better identification of methane hydrate resources and laboratory efforts to quantify the flow properties of methane hydrates, which can assist in modeling methane production in a functioning well.
NETL’s Anthony Armaly is bringing hope and opportunity to communities like Harlan County, Kentucky, through his involvement in the Appalachian Leadership Institute. Last fall, Armaly met Colby Kirk, executive director of One Harlan County, an economic development organization in the southeast corner of the state. After their first institute meeting, Kirk contacted Armaly, who works on NETL’s Strategic Partnerships team, with an urgent request. Harlan County, where good-paying jobs are scarce, was in danger of losing a 12-acre greenhouse project at a local industrial park because the area lacked natural gas service. Alternatives such as propane were under consideration, but they would increase operational expenses three-fold. A natural gas well could be drilled near the site; however, there was no guarantee it could supply enough fuel.
NETL efforts to develop next-generation energy storage technologies and ensure abundant, cleaner energy using the nation’s fossil fuel assets drew interest from more than 300 engineers, researchers, federal policymakers and others who took part in a webinar on the topic, held April 22. Briggs White, Ph.D., technology manager, served as featured speaker for the U.S. Energy Association (USEA) webinar to update key stakeholders on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy’s new Advanced Energy Storage Program. On behalf of the Office of Fossil Energy (FE), NETL implemented the new program to accelerate the development and integration of energy storage technologies. Using these systems, a fossil fuel-based power plant (both coal and natural gas) can continue to operate at high efficiency and store excess power until it’s needed by the grid, reducing the need to operate at fluctuating operational loads while ensuring reliable power supplies. In addition, when operating at high efficiency, fossil fuel plants generate lower greenhouse gas emissions.
On-site drilling is set to continue on an NETL-supported field laboratory which will characterize and assess the potential economic value of unconventional shale resources in Central Appalachia. Virginia Tech (VT) along with industry partner, EnerVest Operating LLC, will drill out the surface casing shoe of a 15,000-foot characterization well to investigate and characterize the resource potential for multi-play production of emerging unconventional reservoirs in Central Appalachia. The emerging stacked unconventional plays (ESUP) project will evaluate the resource potential of multiple stratigraphic units possibly leading to further natural gas development and job growth in a region of the country hard-hit by the downturn in coal production.
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.
FOA Logo
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have issued a request for proposal (RFP) as an unrestricted, full, and open competition for the conceptual design of a system to produce 1–3 tonnes per day of mixed rare earth oxides or rare earth salts from domestic coal and coal by-product feedstocks. The proposal also includes an option to conduct a feasibility study sufficient to support an AACE Class 4 cost estimate to assess the technical and economic feasibility of the approach identified in the conceptual design. The contract award(s) resulting from this RFP will be firm-fixed-price.