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Collaboration Remains Key to Climate Crisis Solutions

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

NETL has long been a leader in energy innovation that looks ahead to develop solutions to tomorrow’s energy challenges. In this way, our talented team of scientists and engineers advance technologies like carbon capture and storage so that they can be deployed to address critical challenges like the climate crisis. Collaboration is fundamental to our work and so is sharing our breakthroughs and successes with the energy community.

Recently, I delivered a keynote address at the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources in which I highlighted NETL’s highly successful record of technological achievements to transition the U.S. to an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. This was an important message to share, especially since NETL scientists and engineers have such a critical role to play in addressing the Biden Administration’s ambitious climate goals.

I had the privilege of sharing some of our Lab’s technology transfer successes in pursuit of net-zero carbon emissions during the annual meeting of the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, held April 6-8. As our country enters one of the greatest energy transitions in its history to combat the effects of climate change, NETL stands ready to meet the challenge. By synergizing our national labs, industry, academia and other organizations, we can leverage the strengths of all involved to accelerate the process from concept to commercialization.

During a keynote session at the 3rd Natural Gas Utilization Workshop held April 24 by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, I took the opportunity to discuss NETL’s in-house and extramural research projects to convert natural gas into the chemical building blocks needed to manufacture higher value products and research underway to convert methane (the primary component in natural gas) to hydrogen for use as clean fuel. Finding new expanded uses for natural gas is an NETL priority, and NETL-supported technological advancements during the past decade have unlocked access to large reserves of domestic natural gas, which have played a major part in achieving vastly greater energy security for the U.S.

NETL leaders and I met with faculty at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) during a fireside chat April 20 to discuss how NETL is developing and supporting strategies and technologies to achieve carbon management goals outlined by President Biden. We also discussed key lab initiatives and their potential to intersect with research undertaken by the Pittsburgh university. Partnerships between NETL and CMU have yielded a number of revolutionary energy-related discoveries, and this was a valuable opportunity to bring the faculty up to speed on our latest priorities and projects so we can explore continued collaboration with the incredible talent at CMU.

NETL’s work to unite public research initiatives with private industry to proliferate sustainable energy technologies were front and center April 6-7 during the 2021 Oil and Natural Gas Technology Symposium: Focus on Sustainability. The symposium showcased the latest energy technology innovations to improve fuel efficiency and sustainability while reducing environmental impact and enhancing recovery efforts. With major industry players in attendance, this was an opportunity for NETL to discuss the central role collaboration plays in our work to nurture emerging technologies from concept to commercialization.

I had an opportunity to highlight NETL’s carbon capture technology development and its vital role in decarbonizing the energy sector during Carnegie Mellon University’s Energy Week, Monday, March 22 through Friday, March 26. Carbon capture technologies have the potential to offer viable pathways to enable deep decarbonatization of both the U.S. and the world, and NETL recognized the need to rapidly accelerate development and deployment of these technologies at an early stage. As a result, we already have a solid foundation in place to achieve net-zero carbon emission goals in the power sector by 2035 and the broader economy by 2050. 

These are just a few examples of NETL’s work to engage with industry, academia, government agencies and other collaborators to address the large-scale challenges that require a global effort. It’s just one part of how NETL is driving innovation and delivering solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future: ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, and enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.