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Energy trends are changing, which means the nation’s energy infrastructure must change too, including the designs of transformational power technologies like ultra-supercritical steam plants and supercritical carbon-dioxide power systems. To operate efficiently at higher temperatures and pressures, power plants of the future will need new affordable materials that can deliver both superior corrosion and creep resistance. These alloys can operate in many industrial environments such as such as gas turbines or chemical processing plants without sacrificing the typical lower cost, formability and weldability of conventional high-temperature materials. Such systems will increase efficiency, lower costs and reduce emissions from fossil-fired power cycles, ensuring affordable and reliable energy for the nation well into the future.
R and D
Scientists from NETL were invited by book editors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Honeybee Robotics to include a chapter focusing on a portion of its research program related to Environmental Drilling as part of the recently released book “Advances in Terrestrial Drilling: Ground, Ice, and Underwater.” The book details the latest drilling and excavation principles and processes for terrestrial environments. Many years of research by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in this area is detailed, including NETL’s offshore research, as the focus of the book’s seventh chapter, “Environmental Drilling / Sampling and Offshore Modeling Systems.”
By completing its “first fire” of a new natural gas infrastructure system, the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) is paving the way for testing of carbon capture technologies using actual natural gas-derived flue gas starting in early 2021. This achievement marks a significant milestone for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) NETL-sponsored facility as it expands the variability of carbon capture technologies for natural gas power generation, in addition to coal-fired power plants. NCCC’s natural gas carbon capture infrastructure at Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Wilsonville, Alabama, includes a natural gas-fired boiler, flue gas cooler, condenser and blower. The natural gas boiler is in addition to the current capability of providing actual coal-fired flue gas from an operating pulverized coal plant. This system offers significant advantages for carbon capture technology developers to demonstrate and scale up technologies, including expanded testing windows and more flexibility.
Journal of Structural Geology
A novel geospatial data method developed by NETL researchers for modeling and predicting geologic structural complexity within the subsurface has been published in the Journal of Structural Geology. By helping to develop better tools and techniques to predict the storage and behavior of carbon dioxide, natural gas and other resources within the subsurface, NETL’s innovative research is enabling hydrocarbon extraction efforts to operate cheaper and more efficiently while leaving a lighter environmental footprint. The data science method developed by the Lab aims to improve predictions in areas both with and without high-resolution subsurface data through the development of a knowledge-data framework and leveraging the Spatially Integrated Multivariate Probabilistic Assessment (SIMPA) tool and methodology. The process of developing the data framework puts data sets into spatial arrays suitable for both the software’s processing capabilities and the fuzzy logic modeling system within the SIMPA tool.
Turbine Blade
NETL scientists are advancing the development of high-entropy alloys (HEAs) that can withstand significantly higher temperatures and extreme stress to enable gas turbines to run with greater efficiency. The development of these durable materials will not only enable industrial gas turbines to generate cleaner electricity using abundant domestic energy sources, they also may be used to manufacture the stronger components needed to build next-generation aviation turbines (jet engines) that require less fuel and produce fewer emissions. As part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Ultrahigh Temperature Impervious Materials Advancing Turbine Efficiency (ULTIMATE) program, NETL is partnering with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon University to advance the development of structural materials that can withstand the highest temperatures in a turbine, as well as the extreme stresses imposed on turbine blades.
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: