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This image shows the difference between a low-frequency seismic event of long duration (top) and a microseismic event (bottom), as reflected in their waveforms. The narrow red rectangle indicates the half-second time frame in which the microseismic event occurs as compared to the longer length of the low-frequency event.
Seismic activity occurs regularly, primarily due to Earth’s natural movement but sometimes due to the deep injection of wastewater for disposal or other valuable purposes. Far from the catastrophic images of devastating earthquakes that may come to mind, the most frequent seismic activity is imperceptible and even beneficial to the average American. When it comes to hydraulic fracturing operations to recover deep shale gas, seismic activity provides vital information to scientists about the subsurface stresses and permeable fractures. Seismic activity also enhances production and boosts efficiency.  Hydraulic fracturing involves rapidly pumping vast amounts of fluid underground, creating and enlarging cracks that provide pathways for natural gas recovery. Hydraulic fracturing operations are designed to take advantage of existing natural cracks – routes that are easily reopened by fluid under high pressure. During the process, scientists record microseismicity – unfelt tremors caused by the movement of brittle rock – to estimate the production capacity, or stimulated reservoir volume (SRV), of a shale gas well.
Two views of fractured Marcellus shale rock core colored to reflect mineral density.
Without ever leaving the Lab, NETL researchers are exploring the microscopic spaces in rocks, called pores, to take measurements as they seek a better understanding of how liquids and gases interact. These measurements are expanding scientific knowledge of the subsurface environment to ensure safe and effective carbon storage, enhanced resource recovery, and basic scientific understanding of subsurface phenomena. Rather than shrinking scientists, NETL is using cutting-edge imaging technology that enables 3D visualization and analysis of volumetric data at the submillimeter scale. The innovative software, called SyGlass, brings data to life through virtual reality, allowing researchers to examine real-world energy challenges in three dimensions.
Employment in energy fields, including oil and natural gas sectors, continued to increase in 2017, but employers are facing challenges when seeking qualified workers to fill open positions
Employment in energy fields, including oil and natural gas sectors, continued to increase in 2017, but employers are facing challenges when seeking qualified workers to fill open positions, according to data presented during the Future Energy and Manufacturing Jobs webinar sponsored by the NETL Regional Workforce Initiative (RWFI).  The online event brought together subject matter experts from NETL, RAND Corporation, and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) to discuss energy and manufacturing jobs and workforce data. Nearly 100 registrants representing more than 40 different organizations across the Appalachian region and nationally participated in the event. Dave Foster, a distinguished associate from EFI, provided analysis and results from the U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The report, based on survey data from 2017, was a project of the National Association of State Energy Officials and EFI and addresses four energy sectors – electric power generation and fuels production; electric power and fuels transmission; distribution and storage; and energy efficiency and motor vehicles manufacturing.
NETL NEWS
3D map visualization displaying the number of overlapping data resources (scaled from lower (yellow) to higher (red)) relevant for predicting REE concentrations in coal and coal-related strata. This is overlain with quantities (thousand tons) of Powder River Basin (PRB) coal visualized by individual deliveries (gray lines; quantity scaled by width) from 16 mines to 134 power plants (blue spheres; quantity scaled by size) for 2017. In 2017, the PRB accounted for 43% of total U.S.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected three additional projects to receive approximately $3.3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development. These projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001728, Advanced Combustion Systems: Existing Plant Improvements and Transformational Technologies. These projects, selected as part of FE’s Advanced Energy Systems program, will enable cost-competitive, coal-based power-generation systems. The selected projects will further the expanded use of coal, while also achieving near-zero pollutant emissions and improving the near- and long-term economics of these systems. The three new selections join nine other projects under this FOA that were chosen by FE in October 2017 to receive approximately $12 million. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage these additional projects described below:
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) selected five projects to receive approximately $10.7 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development. The projects will advance tools and methods for assessing the state of stress and geomechanical impacts within the subsurface associated with underground carbon storage. The projects are supported through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001826, Developing Technologies to Advance the Understanding of State of Stress and Geomechanical Impacts within the Subsurface. Selected projects are funded by FE’s Carbon Storage Program, which advances the development and validation of technologies that enable safe, cost-effective, permanent geologic storage of carbon dioxide ( CO2). These projects will provide tools for measuring, estimating, and understanding underground stress impacts that may occur in carbon storage activities. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the selected projects, which are summarized below:
NETL NEWS
For the 18th year, NETL will present the Energy and Power Generation Training Course for the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) today through Friday to help educate future U.S. diplomats about critical national and international energy issues. The course is being presented in Washington, D.C., and at NETL’s Pittsburgh, Pa. and Morgantown, W.Va. sites and features visits to key energy production facilities and a designated energy efficient building in Pittsburgh. FSI sets American diplomats up for success so they can ensure the success of American diplomacy around the world. As the U.S. government’s premier foreign affairs training provider, FSI promotes substantive, regional, and linguistic expertise, leadership finesse, personal resilience and innovative problem-solving.
Pipeline integrated with distributed fiber optic sensing cables
Secure and reliable natural gas delivery is essential as the industry grows to meet an increasing portion of America’s energy needs. Natural gas accounted for nearly 32 percent of the electricity produced in the United States in 2017, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that figure to rise to nearly 39 percent by 2050. More than 300,000 miles of large transmission pipelines transport vast amounts of domestic natural gas nationwide. Every inch is susceptible to threats such as corrosion, the natural deterioration of metal materials caused by chemical reactions to the environment. Corrosion is one of the leading causes of pipeline leaks and ruptures, which threaten the safety of industry employees and the security of the nation’s energy supply.  Researchers at NETL are working to address these concerns by developing advanced fiber-optic sensor systems that protect America’s pipelines by preventing leaks and failures before they occur. These systems will supersede conventional technologies, which are designed to detect pipeline leaks and failures that have already happened.
An innovative bench-scale facility established at West Virginia University (WVU) in collaboration with NETL will demonstrate the feasibility of extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from acid coal mine drainage (AMD) to develop a domestic supply of REEs
An innovative bench-scale facility established at West Virginia University (WVU) in collaboration with NETL will demonstrate the feasibility of extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from acid coal mine drainage (AMD) to develop a domestic supply of REEs – an effort that will enhance America’s economic growth and national security. The WVU Rare Earth Extraction Facility was created as part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) project managed by NETL. Director (Acting) Sean I. Plasynski and other Lab representatives joined DOE Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg, WVU leaders and noted dignitaries for a commissioning event July 18 to celebrate the launch of the new facility.
NETL's LIBS sensor has the potential to provide more accurate subsurface monitoring for applications like carbon storage and downhole measurements for the oil and gas industry.
NETL researchers are using a laser-based technology to create newer methods that can better quantify certain environmental impacts associated with fossil energy production or underground carbon storage by assessing gases, water and soil quality in situ underground. Specifically, the experts at NETL have adapted Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) hardware to well-bore monitoring applications, making LIBS more effective and easier to use for in-the-field subsurface research. Much of what these researchers hope to monitor is underground, but most traditional monitoring technologies cannot function in the subsurface environment, where conditions, such as brine emersion and pressure, are much different than at the surface. Monitoring techniques that do exist are expensive and labor intensive, often requiring complicated sample collection and preparation that can alter the sample and its constituents.