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Barbara Kutchko
What does a CT scanner have to do with safer drilling operations? The answer may surprise you. Researchers at NETL are combining their unparalleled expertise with unexpected tools like CT scanners to investigate a material that prevents leaks and spills during oil and gas drilling operations—foamed cement. To most people, cement is the material of buildings, roads, bridges, sidewalks, and security barriers. However, cement also plays a critical role in the safe recovery of oil and gas from wellbores beneath oceans and land sites around the world. Foamed cements are ultralow-density systems that are used during oil and gas drilling operations to encase production tubes and prevent leaks and spills. The “foam” part of the cement is created by injecting inert gas into cement slurries to create millions of microscopic bubbles. NETL’s foamed cement research has been recognized around the world as one of the best sources for reliable information about the performance of foamed cements in oil and gas wellbores. The increased use of foamed cement systems in high-stress environments makes understanding its stability in the wellbore vital.
The U.S. Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected seven projects to receive $5.9 million to focus on novel ways to use carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from coal-fired power plants.  In addition to federal funding, each project will also include non-federal cost share of at least 20 percent. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a commodity chemical used in many commercial applications, such as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and production of chemicals, fuels, and other products. The selected research projects will directly support FE’s Carbon Storage program’s Carbon Use and Reuse research and development portfolio.  This portfolio will develop and test novel approaches that convert CO2 captured from coal-fired power plants to useable products.  The projects will also explore ways to use captured CO2 in areas where high-volume uses, like enhanced oil recovery, may not be optimal or the use could partially offset the cost of carbon capture technologies.
A technology developed by researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has been recognized with a prestigious Excellence in Technology Transfer Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC). The award, presented annually, recognizes outstanding work by laboratory employees in transferring technology developed in federal laboratories to the commercial marketplace. The award-winning technology is a revolutionary, cost-effective coating process to protect metal products from corrosion. The process creates a protective barrier by electrodepositing aluminum in place of heavy metals, such as chromium and cadmium, which are expensive and environmentally harmful. The new, “green” process represents a major advancement over current technology, improving versatility, diminishing environmental impact, and reducing cost for corrosion-resistant coatings.
Natural gas field
A 2-year study by analysts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in which they synthesized new methane emission data from a series of ground-based field measurements, shows that 1.7 percent of the methane in the U.S. natural gas supply chain is emitted between extraction and delivery. Identifying the magnitude and sources of methane emissions will allow producers to prioritize opportunities to reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. Results of the study have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The study identified gathering systems and pneumatic controllers at production sites as top contributors to the emission of methane in the natural gas supply chain. Gathering systems, which play a key role connecting production and processing, represented 22 percent of methane emissions. Production pneumatics, which accounted for 10 percent of methane emissions, intentionally release methane into the atmosphere as part of their function to reduce control line pressure.
Plasma Photo
Inside a new NETL laboratory, researchers are firing up a device that may one day enable unprecedented power generation performance without any moving parts. Jetting out of the nozzle of a high-velocity oxyfuel torch, a stream of plasma glows like a light-saber poised for combat. But this technology is designed to battle the low efficiencies that plague many of today’s energy conversion systems, rather than galactic evil-doers. The torch will become part of a generator that makes use of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)—the forces and properties of electrically conductive fluids, such as plasmas, in a magnetic field. The MHD generator will harness this plasma stream, which is created by mixing and combusting a powdered additive with a fuel source—currently kerosene, but industrial-scale systems would likely use coal or natural gas. In the generator, a powerful magnet induces electrical current in the plasma stream, and electrodes harness the resulting power.