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The Water-Energy Nexus

NETL’s Research and Project Management Capabilities in the Water-for-Energy Space

water energy nexus core capabilities

Water is a critical component in nearly every phase of fossil energy development and use – from resource extraction and processing to power generation to pollution control. As the demand for clean, fresh water increases both in the United States and globally, so will the challenges to its efficient and environmentally sound use in enabling fossil fuels to continue to produce clean, affordable, and reliable energy. Ensuring that water is used in the most efficient and environmentally sound manner possible is an important focus of the research conducted at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. 

Key to NETL’s success in addressing the intimate link between water and energy are the strong relationships and partnerships it has established with the public and private sectors. The Lab partners with the U.S. Department of Energy’s other national laboratories, academia, non-government organizations, and industry to develop and bring to commercial readiness the technology and supporting science needed to allow for the continued environmentally sound and sustainable use of our domestic fossil energy resources, including its intersection with water.

Through such collaborations NETL can leverage its core research and development capabilities (see below) and program management competencies to solve complex problems crosscutting coal-based power generation, oil and gas development, carbon capture and storage, and other related water topics.

Water Technology Thrusts

NETL executes and manages a wide spectrum of inhouse and external projects targeting both water availability and quality issues associated with fossil energy development and use. This includes research and technology development to reduce cooling water demand, to use non-traditional sources of water for thermoelectric generation and resource recovery, and to treat and recover value products from the effluents of coal mining and oil and gas operations. These projects, which range in scope from modelling and analysis to early stage research to fully realized commercial solutions, serve to highlight the Lab’s diverse capabilities and competencies that can be brought to bear to help solve existing and emerging water issues.

The Lab’s four major water-energy research thrusts include:

Advanced Cooling Technology
Focused on technology innovations that reduce evaporative loss and enhance performance associated with wet, dry, and hybrid cooling systems for thermoelectric power generation.

Non-traditional Water Use
Directed at characterization and treatment of non-traditional sources of water, such as mine water or municipal grey water, for power generation and oil and gas recovery.

Water Treatment and Detection Technology
Focused on advanced sensors, wireless networks, novel sorbents, and innovative technologies for detecting, removing, and/or recovering value products from oil and gas production, coal mining discharge, and effluents from power generation.

Decision Science and Modeling 
Engaged in development and exercise of a range of modeling, analysis, and decision-making tools to evaluate the impact of fossil energy development on surface and sub-surface water resources.

From targeted competitive announcements to cooperative research and development agreements, NETL offers a variety of cost-shared funding and related partnership arrangements to help move technology and intellectual property through the technology maturation cycle and into the marketplace. To learn more about the Lab’s capabilities, competencies, and opportunities to partner on water-energy topics, visit our Business Page or contact Thomas Feeley.

Additional Documentation:

Technology area contact:

Thomas J. Feeley, III
Strategic Partnerships