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In a project managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), GE Global Research has advanced a method to lower the energy requirement and cut the cost of recovering usable water from high-salinity brines. The new technology offers a way to turn a potential waste product into a usable source of water and minerals. Water and energy are surprisingly interconnected: much water is needed to generate electricity, and much energy is needed to purify water. The lowest energy method of water purification is typically a membrane process, such as reverse osmosis; however, some wastewaters are not good candidates for this because of very high salt concentrations. Reverse osmosis also leaves behind a brine with very high salinity that must be disposed of properly.
Biomass to Liquids Process
With an eye toward the development of cleaner coal-derived liquid fuels that can someday power cars, trucks, tanks, and even jets, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been supporting researchers at the University of Kentucky as they close in on an innovation that could someday advance the state of the art for transportation fuels production. In an ongoing 5-year project, the researchers have advanced the design, construction, and operation of a small-scale pilot plant that gasifies coal and coal/biomass blends to form syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) and then converts the syngas to liquid fuels. The facility, located at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research, has a 1‑barrel‑per‑day liquids fuel capacity and is intended to develop meaningful information about the technology; its scalability, cost, and economics; and product characteristics and quality.
Sensing Equipment
Just as the newest jet aircraft technologies require cutting edge innovations like carbon-fiber composites, polymers, and avionics to make them fly, the next generation of high efficiency and environmentally sound energy-producing technologies demand a very specific set of functional materials to make them capable of answering the nation’s increasing energy needs. NETL is internationally recognized for its success in designing, developing, and deploying functional materials tailored for use in energy applications and extreme service environments for next-generation energy technologies like solid oxide fuel cells, chemical looping, carbon capture, fuel processing, and many other applications.
Carnegie Science Awards Logo
A research team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has been honored with a Carnegie Science Award in recognition of the ways their work has serviced manufacturing and materials science in the western Pennsylvanian area. In a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, NETL assembled a multi-disciplinary team tasked with developing high-performance optical sensors capable of operating in harsh environments, such as those found in fossil-fuel power generations systems  including solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).
RS 25 Rocket engine
Extreme environments are everywhere. From the pressures of the ultradeep ocean to the inferno heat of a power plant, harsh conditions make scientific ingenuity a necessity. To operate technology in extreme environments, new materials that can withstand those environments need to be created. Scientists at NETL are known for their ability to do just that. The three RS-25 engines used to propel NASA’s Space Shuttles are technological marvels. Fueled by liquid hydrogen, they generate intense heat and pressure to create the force necessary to escape the Earth’s atmosphere. During operation, an engine’s main combustion chambers can reach temperatures of 6,000 °F—far hotter than lava or molten steel.
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.