When a panel of utility company experts offered their perspectives on energy research needs during an NETL conference in Pittsburgh devoted to improving fossil energy-producing capabilities, they provided valuable input for a key aspect of the Laboratory’s innovation-leveraging effort known as the Crosscutting Research Program.
By identifying pressing national research needs through industry interactions, and then effectively using NETL’s core research capabilities to address those needs, the Laboratory’s Crosscutting Research Program advances and accelerates promising technologies that benefit a broad range of fossil energy applications. The work features collaborations with America’s most talented technology developers, and university and national lab researchers to evolve high-impact fossil energy technologies.
An annual project review examining ongoing research and forecasting upcoming research needs is part of NETL’s Crosscutting Research effort and it attracts representatives of industry and universities from throughout the nation.
The utility panel at the 2018 Pittsburgh review meeting in April was moderated by Angelos Kokkinos, director of DOE’s Office of Advanced Fossil Technology Systems in the Office of Fossil Energy. The panel consisted of Charles Boohaker of the Southern Company, Landon Johnson of Great River Energy, and Shaun Mann of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.
Panel members agreed that enhancements to operational flexibility, reductions in operations and maintenance costs, and improvements in reliability are important research focus areas that will enable the 21st Century grid to effectively service the nation’s power needs.
Briggs White of NETL’s Crosscutting Program, said the input was important for NETL and DOE.
“Panelists focused on challenges they see on the evolving energy landscape,” he said. “That’s the sweet spot for us as we continue crosscutting research efforts at NETL. One of the advantages of our program is its ability to see and foster applications of a given technology across a number of programs and leverage them efficiently to accomplish common fossil energy goals.”
Reacting to industry input, and using technological capabilities like advanced data analytics and supercomputers, advanced manufacturing, process intensification concepts, and detailed device- and system-scale modeling, researchers in the Crosscutting Program make progress in a range of critical areas important to energy research such as:
Sensors and Controls – Development of technologies that improve coal-fired power plants enabling higher efficiency, improving availability, increasing reliability, lowering electricity costs, increasing the ability to respond to load cycling, and reducing emissions.
High-Performance Materials – Creation of materials capable of operating at higher temperatures to achieve increased efficiency and lower operating costs through computational materials design and experimental validation.
Simulation-Based Engineering – Application of advanced computational tools to accelerate development of fossil fuel technologies that improve performance, reduce the costs of existing fossil energy power systems, and enable development of new energy platforms such as supercritical CO2 power cycles and chemical looping combustion.
Water Management Research and Development – Innovation of new water treatment technologies that economically derive clean water from alternative sources, reduce water usage within power plants, and treat wastewater before it leaves. Important local, regional, and national data for decision-makers regarding the intersection of water and fossil energy is also generated through detailed analyses.
University Training and Research – Support for two of the longest-running university training programs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Other Minority Institutes (OMI), and University Coal Research (UCR). The programs were designed to increase the competitiveness of universities in fossil energy research and discoveries while training students in STEM education.
With help from communication efforts like the utility panel, the technologies developed by the Crosscutting Research program focus on improving operational flexibility and reducing operating and maintenance costs to strengthen the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s infrastructure.