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A public-private research effort led by NETL with Oceanit Laboratories Inc. has produced an ultra-thin surface treatment that could significantly improve the reliability of the nation’s extensive energy pipeline network by reducing corrosion and surface friction on pipe walls. More than 2.5 million miles of pipeline deliver natural gas and oil to homes, businesses and industries across the United States. Taking steps to ensure safety as the network ages and prevent disruptions in the flow of critical energy resources was the focus of the collaborative effort.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL have selected two projects to receive approximately $2 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development. The projects will improve coal combustion residuals management under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002190, Research for Innovative Emission Reduction Technologies Related to Coal Combustion Residuals. The selected projects represent the first round of selections for this FOA. Applications are still being accepted for the second round of the FOA, which closes on September 30, 2020. Coal combustion residuals (CCRs) consist primarily of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum, and other FGD-solid by-products, from coal-fired power plants. Research and development efforts under this FOA aim to economically increase the beneficial use and management of CCRs, reducing the volume needed to be disposed of in impoundments while protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public.
With the completion of a recent field test at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, NETL researchers demonstrated that the Lab’s basic immobilized amine sorbent (BIAS) process could successfully extract rare earth elements (REEs) from acid mine drainage, potentially providing a reliable domestic supply of critical materials needed to produce wind turbines, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, computer components, medical devices, smart phones and other valuable products. Located near Settlers Cabin Park about 10 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, the Garden was developed on land that was once actively mined for coal and is the site of ongoing efforts to treat acidic water that drains from abandoned mining operations. NETL’s work to remove REEs from mine drainage is rooted in the development of sorbents to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-burning power plants.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking input to develop a roadmap to meet the goals of its Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC), a comprehensive program to accelerate the development, commercialization and utilization of next-generation energy storage technologies and sustain American global leadership in energy storage.
Photo Caption: Archived photo captured prior to March 2020
Photo Caption: Archived photo captured prior to March 2020 Representatives from across industry and government convened July 28 as NETL hosted a virtual meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to discuss agency branding. The meeting, which was the fifth meeting of existing and new members included remarks from Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and NETL Director Brian Anderson, as well as briefings from the Department of Energy Under Secretaries. “It was an honor for NETL to host this prestigious Board and benefit from the wide-ranging energy expertise of its members,” said NETL Director Brian Anderson. “NETL’s mission is to develop technology solutions to our nation’s energy challenges and also to help move those technologies into the commercial market. Today’s virtual meeting included valuable insight from across many energy sectors and other industries on how DOE and the national labs can make our nation more prosperous and more secure.”   
Microwave reactor at NETL in Pittsburgh
NETL researchers envision a day when carbon dioxide (CO2) may transition from a waste gas that contributes to climate change to a high-value feedstock used in the production of fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fertilizers and a range of consumer goods. In a recent groundbreaking study, researchers reported making important strides in dry reforming, a process that reacts CO2, instead of steam or oxygen, with methane to yield the mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide known as synthesis gas or syngas, a chemical building block for many products. The promising technology driving a greener future for CO2 is microwave-assisted dry reforming of methane (MW-DRM). According to NETL researchers, microwave systems enable the high-temperature reactions required by the process because they can selectively and efficiently heat the catalyst bed in the microwave reactor without needing to heat the entire reactor volume.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have announced a request for information (RFI) about hydrogen technology opportunities and research needs that could lead to advances in hydrogen technologies. Advances in hydrogen technologies that are capable of improving overall performance, reliability, and flexibility of existing technologies to produce, transport, store, and use hydrogen will enable the United States to continue to extract maximum economic value from its fossil-fueled energy system assets. It will also allow the United States to produce carbon-neutral hydrogen and eliminate the carbon footprint often associated with fossil energy use.  In this RFI, DOE is specifically interested in gathering information relevant to five topic areas: (1) natural gas hydrogen production, transport, and storage; (2) hydrogen production from gasification of fossil fuel and other materials, especially waste plastics and biomass; (3) hydrogen turbines; (4) hydrogen storage; and (5) hybrid energy systems with reversible solid oxide fuel cells to produce hydrogen.
A new model developed by Argonne National Lab (ANL) and NETL, with support from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE), will help communities balance the often competing demands for water use among the power, agricultural, industrial, and residential sectors. Most thermoelectric power plants in the U.S. rely on fresh water for cooling, resulting in significant water consumption, which can be a problem when local water supplies are scarce and those plants also draw on the same sources as nearby communities for use in daily life.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have issued a request for information (RFI) to understand workforce development needs within the high-performance materials supply chain. The advanced materials supply chain consists of four segments—alloy production, shaping, finishing, and component assembly. In the fossil energy industry, these segments create high-paying jobs and contribute to a secure energy supply in the United States. However, recent events and disruptions have shifted the focus of manufacturing needs. A workforce skilled in additive manufacturing, novel joining and welding, robotics, and automated production is required to maintain and grow a robust advanced materials supply chain. This RFI seeks information to identify the most pressing workforce needs and gaps, match skills with employment needs, and establish training programs and curricula. The collected information/data will then be used to create a targeted workforce that can address immediate demands and strengthen lasting capacity for fossil fuel applications.
Ongoing NETL research into advanced concrete additives could one day revolutionize the construction of bridges and other infrastructure, saving communities money and time while also spurring economic demand for one of the nation’s most abundant and historic resources: coal. Due to its low cost, versatility, and malleability concrete remains the most popular construction material in the world. However, concrete, at least in its conventional cement paste composition, has several limitations. These include susceptibility to chemical corrosion from the salts used for deicing roads and deterioration from the freeze-thaw cycles that occur when water penetrates cracks during winter months. Traditional concrete also suffers from lower tensile strength, which is the maximum stress that a material can withstand while being stretched or pulled before breaking. These drawbacks lead to lengthy and costly inspection periods and repairs, often disrupting the flow of traffic and public life in general in the process.