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Applying Advanced Innovations to Clean Up the Past and Reduce Methane Emissions
Methane molecule

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

In the battle against climate change, NETL has been a leading developer of critical technologies like those used for carbon capture and storage to mitigate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But did you also know our Lab is at the forefront of innovations to curb methane emissions? 

Methane emissions are the second largest contributor to climate change — only CO2 ranks ahead of methane as a greenhouse gas source. Methane reduction is a critical piece of the nation’s long-term climate solution. 

In the United States, the largest source of industrial methane emissions is in the oil and gas sector. Abandoned, or orphaned, oil and gas wells can not only leak methane, but they can also contaminate ground water and create other environmental issues. That’s why finding and plugging orphan wells is a priority for NETL.  

This month, we’re featuring stories about how NETL researchers are applying today’s clean energy technologies to address orphan wells from our nation’s energy past. Check out our website and social media throughout April to learn more about how 

  • Lightweight sensor technology developed by NETL is proving to be an effective airborne tool to locate the remnants of abandoned oil and natural gas wells that emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. 
  • NETL experts are harnessing advanced computing capabilities including machine learning and artificial intelligence to create ways to analyze information from diverse data streams like historic records, information reported from citizen scientists, field data collections and other obscure sources to identify undocumented orphaned wells, leading to remediation efforts that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • NETL researchers are using geospatial mapping to develop new means of locating orphaned oil and gas wells so they can be plugged in the interest of public health and the environment by reducing the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

NETL takes its mission to drive innovation and deliver solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future seriously. For our researchers, environmental stewardship includes not only advancing technologies for tomorrow’s sustainable energy but also applying these leading-edge innovations to clean up energy production from the past. 

I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments toward enabling transformation to our nation’s sustainable energy future, and I invite you to learn more throughout April.