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Crosscutting Research
To Address Energy Challenges, Listening Is Key

At NETL, we talk a lot about advancing our mission to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance our nation’s energy foundation while protecting the environment and there are a great many examples of how well we pursue it on this site. But, one of the key ingredients for success is the ability to listen. It’s that input that guides our research and steers our progress.

Here are two examples:

Life Cycle Analysis for Methane Leak Mitigation

NETL’s team of energy analysis experts recently teamed with a natural gas industry partnership called Our Nation’s Energy Future (ONE Future) that is dedicated to improving the efficiency of the natural gas supply chain. The object of the collaboration was to talk about innovative ways to mitigate methane emissions.

NETL worked with ONE Future and used the Lab’s expertise in life cycle analysis to analyze and compare individual company methane performance and then compile a detailed report on methane emissions identifying ways to improve the performance of U.S. natural gas production and delivery. It is important work because controlling methane emissions is critical. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, so when gas escapes methane traps heat in the atmosphere causing a greenhouse effect.

NETL’s life cycle analysis expertise is considered one of the most sophisticated energy models that, in combination with other analytical data, enables policymakers and the public to discern the impact of technology-policy choices.

The project was an outstanding example of how best practices and capital investments by individual industry groups can improve the overall efficiency of systems. It also demonstrated how industry and government can communicate and work together to develop strategies that can improve the long-term operational efficiency of the nation’s natural gas production and delivery systems. And, it was all about listening.

Identifying National Energy Research Needs through Industry Interaction

Another example of the significant role listening plays in our work to advance the nation’s energy future occurred when NETL’s Crosscutting Research Program convened a utility panel recently in Pittsburgh to identify challenges on the evolving energy landscape.

Our Crosscutting Research Program uses communication skills and capabilities in data analytics, advanced manufacturing, and high-performance computing to identify and then foster technologies across a range of fossil energy programs to accomplish innovation goals. By identifying pressing national research needs through industry interactions, and then effectively using NETL’s core research capabilities to address those needs we help evolve promising fossil energy technologies.

Part of that function is to meet with industry representatives to gather input. The utility panel consisted of representatives of the Southern Company, Great River Energy, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.  They agreed that increases in efficiency, 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.

Henry Ford once said that “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” At NETL we plan to continue that philosophy and our legacy of success for America’s energy future.


As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.