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As computational resources continue to evolve, NETL researchers look to new and more powerful tools to bolster their ability to model complex fossil energy power systems. The Lab has decades of experience developing this kind of software — known as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code — including the award-winning Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX). In recent years, machine learning (ML) techniques have been integrated into powerful computational platforms like Google’s Tensor Flow, which is revolutionizing the way NETL researchers write CFD code to accelerate the design of more energy-efficient systems.
Rare Earth
NETL-supported research to secure a domestic supply of rare earth elements (REEs) shows economic potential regarding efficiency and cost savings and progresses along the pathway to commercial viability. The Lab has funded and supported multiple projects across the nation to extract REEs from coal and coal-related byproducts. A notable example is coal acid mine drainage (AMD) and sludge originating from abandoned or still operating mines. However, NETL and its partners are making progress refining a method to clean up AMD in order to extract the vital REEs needed for the U.S. economy to stay competitive on the global market while providing environmental remediation. This sludge is enriched in REEs and contains an average total REE content several times higher than raw, untreated AMD. However, separating the valuable REEs can be very expensive.
Turbine Blade
A cooperative partnership with NETL is advancing the development of next-generation gas turbines to perform with greater efficiency and at higher temperatures to meet the nation’s energy needs while generating cleaner power. Since 2011, the Steady Thermal Aero Research Turbine (START) Lab at Penn State University has progressed from a floor plan into a world-class testing facility capable of simulating realistic turbine operating conditions, thanks in large measure to support from NETL and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy. Other main sponsors are Penn State and Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies. To generate electricity, gas turbines combust a mixture of air and fuel, such as natural gas, at high temperatures and pressures. This high-temperature and high-pressure gas is expanded through a series of nozzles and blade-like airfoils, causing the turbine shaft to spin. The spinning shaft, in turn, drives a generator that produces electricity. Gas turbines also can be used in combination with steam turbines — in a combined-cycle power plant — to create power.
Caney Core
The first-known complete core of the Caney Shale Formation has been obtained as part of an NETL-supported project to find more efficient methods to extract petroleum from unconventional shale deposits and further U.S. energy independence. More than 650 feet of shale was cored and obtained in Stephens County, southcentral Oklahoma, by project partner Continental Resources. The next step is to conduct rock characterization tests (rock mechanics, petrophysics and rock-fluid interactions). Sections of the core sample will be provided to relevant project partners, including researchers at Oklahoma State University, and testing laboratories to determine how the formation reacts, physically and chemically, with fracturing materials. This plan of action was developed at the Caney Core Workshop held at Chesapeake Energy’s Reservoir Technology Center in Oklahoma City, which brought together researchers and other representatives from industry, academia and NETL who are seeking to expand their knowledge about the geomechanical properties of clay-rich ductile shale, which, unlike other shale formations, can withstand greater force before fracturing or breaking.
Brian Anderson
NETL Director Brian Anderson shared the Lab’s contributions in addressing America’s long-term energy challenges while retaining environmental integrity at a gathering of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Energy Initiative. Anderson highlighted NETL’s advances in cost-effective implementation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies throughout the power-generation sector to ensure Americans continue to have access to clean, affordable and reliable energy. He also explained how NETL’s core competencies can be applied to many fields beyond fossil fuels. “If you’re a good geoscientist, you can apply your skills in geothermal, carbon sequestration, oil & gas recovery, nuclear waste storage or even seismic predictions. We do the same,” Anderson said. “The message I wanted to get across is that we’re more than just a fossil energy laboratory. Yes, we’re the fossil energy laboratory, but we’re applying our expertise across many energy sectors.” Anderson’s presentation at MIT focused on the Lab’s efforts to lower the nation’s costs of addressing carbon emissions with the right techniques and technologies.
The K-12 STEM Education and Outreach Team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) led several Science Bowl competitions in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and facilitated collaboration between organizations and community partners in February. Also during the month, several of the Lab’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Ambassadors visited career fairs and other science-themed events to share information about a career in energy, encourage students to explore science learning and bridge the gap between students and researchers at NETL.
As a testament to his hard work and achievements, NETL’s Richard Oleksak was selected to receive the Young Leaders Professional Development Award within the Structural Materials Division of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). The Young Leaders Professional Development Award recognizes early career professionals who show promise for an exceptional career and who have demonstrated leadership within TMS. Candidates for the award are chosen among the technical divisions of Extraction & Processing, Functional Materials, Light Metals, Materials Processing & Manufacturing and Structural Materials. Oleksak earned his award in the Structural Materials Division. As part of his selection, Oleksak received financial assistance to attend the TMS 2020 Annual Meeting in San Diego, Cal. where he presented NETL research and participated in several TMS related leadership activities.
Through cooperation with its partners, NETL is working to advance the optimization and implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies into the nation’s energy sector. With nearly a million wells across the country producing roughly 11 million barrels of crude oil and 4.3 million barrels of natural gas liquids per day, the United States now stands as the world’s largest producer of these resources. New technologies in the field, such as hydraulic fracturing, have greatly contributed to this production boom, the industry faces new challenges in efficiency and predicting well production. Applications of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), so prevalent in other industries, increasingly shows promise. This has been the focus for Chung-Yan Shih, Ph.D., a senior data scientist at NETL (Leidos), whose research has helped reveal how ML can offer answers energy producers as they strive to meet these challenges to keep up with demand.
Mike B
Advanced NETL technology that will enable power plants to operate at higher efficiencies and use less fuel while producing the same amount of energy has been selected to receive a prestigious award from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center. NETL researchers won in the Innovation in Energy category for their investigation of the use of single-crystal optical fibers capable of measuring numerous environmental parameters anywhere the fiber is installed — including the extreme environments of power generation systems. Award recipients were announced March 10 at a VIP reception. Awards will be presented at a May 8 celebration in Pittsburgh. To run a power plant with greater efficiency, it is critical to take measurements of numerous environmental parameters, including temperature, strain, and chemical composition. However, these measurements can be extremely difficult to obtain because conventional electric sensors can’t survive long in the extremely harsh environments present in most fossil or nuclear generation facilities.
FOA Logo
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and NETL have selected one project to receive approximately $1.5 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development under the second closing of funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002001, Crosscutting Research for Coal-Fueled Power Plants.