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A Quarterly Roster of Success as NETL Researchers “Answer Questions and Question Answers”
Natalie Pekney, PhD (NETL) and Dennis Donaldson, PhD, shown measuring emissions of methane from an abandoned, unplugged oil well in Oil Creek State Park, Pennsylvania. The well had been located using aerial magnetic surveying techniques developed at NETL RIC.

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

The second quarter of 2023 was jam-packed with positive news and accomplishment for NETL and its work toward a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2050 through just and sustainable decarbonization pathways.

Since January, we have reported on a wide range of progress and accomplishment. For example, we informed the public about:

  • Breakthrough research on technologies for direct air capture (DAC) that use chemical reactions to pull carbon dioxide directly out of the air and plans to construct a new $25 million dedicated DAC research center at NETL Pittsburgh to further advance innovations associated with the decarbonization approach.
  • Landmark cooperative agreements for scientific cooperation with sister national laboratories and respected academic research institutions.
  • Discovery of methods to recycle hydraulic fracturing water with all-natural filtration activity.
  • Completion of a detailed study that demonstrated how existing U.S. underground gas storage facilities can viably store hydrogen-methane blends and reduce the need to build hydrogen infrastructure.
  • Invention of a new technology that can detect aluminum in liquids, clearing the way for effective recovery of rare earth elements from coal waste that are used in a long list of consumer products.
  • Creation of a new process to transform coal into a game-changing material to manufacture valuable products and generate jobs in coal communities.
  • Work by our experts to identify “orphan wells,” long-abandoned oil and gas operations that were sometimes drilled before environmental laws were enacted and no longer have a responsible operator but leak greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • Our work with Archer Daniels Midland to demonstrate an integrated system of processing and transporting CO2 from an ethanol plant to a saline reservoir for permanent geologic storage, the largest demonstration of its kind in the United States.

These were just a few of the successes NETL reported in the second quarter and they reflect the focus and talent our people invest in our Laboratory’s mission. There’s much more to come.

Bernard Haisch, a world-renowned astrophysicist once observed that “Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers.” At NETL, our successes are based on answering questions and questioning answers and energy innovations are the result.