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The December 2020 edition of RWFI E-Note Monthly, a newsletter published by the NETL Regional Workforce Initiative Team, highlights information about the nation’s energy challenges and opportunities to develop the diverse talent needed to meet them. Programs featured in the newsletter cover a broad spectrum of the energy sector and include opportunities to submit proposals to develop and sustain a highly skilled, diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These proposals include requests from federal agencies seeking to establish programs that support research, education/teaching and extension projects that increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities in STEM-related careers. Some of the opportunities outlined in this edition are:
An NETL-supported project at West Virginia University (WVU) to extract economically and strategically important rare earth elements (REEs) from Appalachian coal resources reached new milestones, such as partial automation of the recovery process, and exceeded its original REE purity and recovery goals. Researchers at WVU’s Water Research Institute used the on-campus Rare Earth Extraction Facility (REEF), which was designed, constructed and commissioned in 2018 as a part of this cooperative agreement, to demonstrate that acid mine drainage (AMD) precipitates from mining sites could be transformed into valuable revenue streams for local communities and businesses using the method of acid leaching solvent extraction (ALSX). “The research conducted at WVU continues to be a source of encouragement,” said Jessica Mullen, NETL federal project manager. “While there is still more work to be done, these researchers have demonstrated that Appalachia can be an attractive source of domestic REE production. If optimized, we may one day see AMD as an opportunity for economic growth instead of just a waste product, all while cleaning up the environment in the process.”
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected 29 projects to receive nearly $7.6 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development. The projects will advance energy storage technologies under the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002332, Energy Storage for Fossil Power Generation. Energy storage combined with fossil energy assets offers a suite of benefits to asset owners, the electric grid, and society. These benefits include more reliable and affordable energy, a cleaner environment, and stronger power infrastructure. These projects will accelerate the development of technology options to manage the energy transition underway to decarbonize and increase the flexibility of fossil power generation and support the grid of the future with increasing variable renewable generation.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) announced plans to make $4 million in federal funding available for cost-shared research and development of tools and methods to optimize safe, secure, and verifiable carbon dioxide (CO2) storage. Funding opportunity announcement (FOA), DE-FOA-0002401, Emerging CO2 Storage Technologies: Optimizing Performance Through Minimization of Seismicity Risks and Monitoring Caprock Integrity, will support the goals of the Advanced Storage R&D technology area of DOE’s Carbon Storage Program.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has issued a request for information (RFI) to develop technologies needed to attain an uninterruptable domestic supply of critical minerals (CMs) and rare earth elements (REEs). A sustainable domestic supply of CMs and REEs is a U.S. priority because they are used to manufacture cell phones, LED screens, solar panels, energy infrastructure, defense technologies and in other essential high-tech applications. Advances in CM and REE sustainability will improve U.S. ability to overcome supply disruptions, restrictions or embargos of certain CMs and REEs by re-establishing the nation’s once world-leading CM and REE supply chains. Since 2014, DOE/FE and NETL have undertaken research focused on extraction, separation, recovery and purification of CMs and REEs from coal-based materials. This RFI seeks responses on a broad range of applicable CM and REE technologies that extend research beyond what is currently sponsored by DOE/FE and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Specifically, DOE/FE is interested in gathering information relevant to four topic areas:
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NETL experts in systems engineering and analysis (SEA) are developing multi-scale approaches to modeling and analysis of technology, processes and markets. In 2020, through models and digital tools, reports and collaborations, the Lab’s SEA researchers made significant progress toward advancing technology solutions for our nation’s energy challenges.
Throughout 2020, NETL’s materials engineering and manufacturing research has demonstrated how historic energy resources can be used in remarkable new ways and how elements commonly thought of as a liability may present exciting new economic opportunities. Harnessing the Potential of Carbon Dioxide For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) may one day 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. During the summer, NETL researchers made important strides in dry reforming, a process that reacts CO2 with methane, rather than steam or oxygen, to yield the mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide known as synthesis gas or syngas, a chemical building block for many products.
NETL recently released version 20.3 of its world-renowned Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX) software suite, which included an improved modeling capability that allows for more accurate descriptions of real particle-size distributions, offering an important new tool for designing next-generation energy systems to power the nation. The new feature was sponsored by NETL’s Crosscutting Research Simulation-Based Engineering program. “Our discrete element method (DEM) in MFiX received a significant enhancement with this update,” NETL’s Jeff Dietiker, Ph.D., said. “Fundamental testing in our Multiphase Flow Laboratory also demonstrates that fluidization and flow behavior, even in cold flow systems, can be greatly impacted by the feed-size distribution, so this new version will add great value to our modeling work, especially for modeling larger-scale, complex reactor systems of mixed feedstocks like coal, biomass and plastics, where high fidelity is critical.”
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced $6.4 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) FE-FOA 0002397, University Turbines Systems Research (UTSR) — Focus on Hydrogen Fuels. The UTSR Program conducts cutting-edge research to increase the efficiency and performance of gas turbines while lowering emissions. There is renewed interest in the use of hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel, for turbine-based electricity generation. Hydrogen production from fossil fuels, coupled with carbon capture, utilization, and storage, can generate low-cost hydrogen with net-negative carbon emissions. Waste plastics could be added to the fuel mix to produce large quantities of hydrogen and to mitigate the impact of plastics in the environment.
NETL-supported research at Virginia Tech has been recognized by the American Energy Society (AES) as one of the top energy and technology developments of the year for its game-changing economic potential to supply the United States with a steady domestic source of vitally important rare earth elements (REE). The project, titled “Development of a Cost-Effective Extraction Process for the Recovery of Heavy and Critical Rare Earth Elements from the Clays and Shales Associated with Coal,” was chosen by AES as one of the energy technologies of the year in its 2020 Energy Awards. Judges found the project was one of the three “most interesting energy-tech developments of 2020,” with respect to the projected fastest-to-market and long-term impact. AES recognized Virginia Tech’s research as a step forward in developing a domestic supply chain of rare earth elements, which are vital to the manufacturing of personal electronics, energy infrastructure and defense technologies, among many other high-tech applications.