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Cover of the NETL Edge Vol 1
NETL presents the latest edition of our publication that showcases the Lab’s research on emerging energy technologies. NETL Edge sharesthe latest developments our talented scientists and engineers are advancing to use our nation’s energy resources efficiently and safely to bolster American’s energy independence. Check out the winter edition to learn more about our research to recharge America’s existing coal-fired power plants, a new rare earth extraction facility created by NETL and West Virginia University, a recently completed supercomputer upgrade and more. Click here to read more.
Alaska Slope
An international partnership formed to investigate the resource potential of natural gas hydrates has announced plans to drill an initial test well within the Prudhoe Bay Unit (PBU), on the Alaska North Slope. The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have all played important roles in the work of the partnership. Gas hydrates are naturally occurring combinations of natural gas and water that form in specific conditions of relatively cold temperatures and relatively high pressures. They are known to occur in abundance in northern Alaska , as well as in the shallow sediments of deepwater continental margins around the world, most notably in the Gulf of Mexico and off the southeastern coast of Japan. Gas hydrates have been researched in the U.S. and Japan since the mid-1990s. The work of both countries confirmed the occurrence of gas hydrates, identified many technical details of its occurrence and nature, and demonstrated the technical feasibility of production.
Clearpath Pre-event photo
ClearPath Foundation, a non-profit organization that specializes in developing policies and research that supports clean energy initiatives through small government, free markets, and American innovation will visit NETL in Morgantown, West Virginia, Tuesday, Dec. 4 to learn about the Laboratory’s work on carbon capture and storage, solid oxide fuel cells, systems engineering analysis, chemical looping, and hybrid performance – technology research areas with potential for advancing clean energy innovations. According to NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., in addition to advancing public policy initiatives in support of clean energy initiatives including carbon capture and storage research, ClearPath has helped fund the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama, which works to accelerate the commercialization of advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both natural gas and coal power generation. NETL has a history of working with the Center to install and evaluate promising carbon capture technologies for scale-up and future commercial deployment.
NETL Website launch
NETL, the nation’s only National Laboratory dedicated to fossil energy research, today launched a new website that highlights the Laboratory’s mission, research news, educational offerings, core competencies, business opportunities, and technologies available for commercialization. The new website,, offers access to the latest research information generated by the Laboratory on oil, coal, natural gas and other energy topics as well as posts about NETL’s work by news organizations from around the nation. NETL Director Brian Anderson explained that the new site was created to provide fast and efficient access to energy answers and assistance – one of many ways NETL experts act in support of the Laboratory’s mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.
FOA logo
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) announced its intent to fund competitive research and development (R&D) efforts in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 that will advance first-of-a-kind coal generation technologies.  This effort—the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative) initiative—will develop the coal plant of the future needed to provide secure, stable, and reliable power.  This R&D will underpin coal-fired power plants that are capable of flexible operations to meet the needs of the grid; use innovative and cutting-edge components that improve efficiency and reduce emissions; provide resilient power to Americans; are small compared to today’s conventional utility-scale coal; and will transform how coal technologies are designed and manufactured. 
Hydraulic fracturing technology
Hydraulic fracturing technology advanced by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) helped boost domestic natural gas production to unprecedented levels by enabling exploration of shale formations that were previously not recognized as a resource. Now, DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and its research collaborators are working to enhance hydraulic fracturing technology by using natural gas produced from unconventional wells to reduce water consumption and the associated environmental impacts. Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting high-pressure fluid underground to create and enlarge cracks that provide pathways for natural gas recovery. Hydraulic fracturing fluids comprise mostly water, and stimulating a single well can require as much as 11 million gallons of water. Some of that fluid is permanently lost underground, while the recovered water, known as flowback, must be disposed of or treated. Often, the water used during the process must be transported to and from the well site, which contributes to traffic, vehicle emissions and inevitable wear on area roadways.
REE Research image
An NETL-managed project is making impressive progress toward developing a state-of-the-art facility to produce a domestic supply of valuable mixed rare earth compounds from coal and coal byproducts. Fifteen lanthanide elements within the periodic table, including scandium and yttrium, are referred to as rare earth elements (REEs). They are essential components in many modern technologies — including cell phones, medical devices and national defense systems — yet challenging to extract, with China providing the bulk of the world’s supply. NETL is aggressively pursuing collaborative projects aimed at developing technologies capable of producing a domestic supply of high-purity, salable rare earth compounds from coal and coal byproducts by 2020. Ongoing work with the University of Kentucky (UK) focuses on Central Appalachian and Illinois Basin bituminous coal preparation plant refuse, which consists of low-quality coal, rock, clay and other waste materials that are sorted out during coal processing.
Chart relecting CO2/N2 Selectivity by CO2 Permeance
An ambitious NETL project aimed at making membrane-based carbon capture more affordable for power plants is highlighted in the latest edition of the high-impact journal Energy and Environmental Science. Power plants are a major source of greenhouse gases, sometimes requiring costly carbon-capture technologies to meet federal emissions requirements and ensure responsible stewardship of the environment. The development of highly permeable membranes selective enough to easily separate carbon dioxide ( CO2) from gas streams at a low cost offers the potential to facilitate affordable carbon capture.
Image of a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generator
More than 35 years ago, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) worked on a promising technology to advance high-efficiency coal power generation using a device called a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) power generator. Their goal was to successfully develop a topping cycle based on the physics of MHD, whereby the forces and properties of electrically conductive fluids, such as plasmas, interact with an applied magnetic field to produce electrical power. An MHD generator can basically act as an electromagnetic turbine, only instead of mechanical blades, the moving part is the electrically conductive gasses. This approach is attractive because it enables higher temperature power extraction, which yields greater combined cycle power generation efficiencies.
1112 ReACT art
NETL researchers are unleashing the power of microwaves to convert fuels like coal, oil and natural gas into marketable fuels, chemicals and products. In addition to providing higher yields with lower temperatures and less energy, this work is also advancing understanding of the science behind the reactions through state-of-the-art bench-scale facilities with an eye toward scalable and economically viable systems. "Traditional fuel conversion processes rely on thermal heating, which works from the outside in,” said Dushyant Shekhawat, Ph.D., who leads NETL’s Reaction Engineering team. “However, microwaves operate on a molecular level, allowing rapid, selective heating. These microwave-specific effects are important to understand on a fundamental level because they can affect profound changes, even yielding completely different products than what is created during normal heating.”