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A New Year for Innovation
2020 promises to be a productive year for energy research.

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, PhD.

This is such an exciting time for energy research, and NETL has a central role to play. The work ahead of us has the potential to transform the energy landscape as we pursue technologies that will reshape how we use our abundant natural resources. Let me share a few examples.

We’re developing technologies that will increase the efficiency and decrease the environmental footprint of new and existing power plants. Our efforts in carbon capture, utilization, and storage continues to lead the way for the pathway of a cleaner, lower emission economy of the future. Our research will lead to improvements in performance and will help extend the life of existing power plants while providing options in a carbon-constrained future. Our researchers are investigating next-generation modular coal-fired power plants with operational flexibility and high efficiency, and we’re continuing our work in oxy-combustion and chemical looping combustion. We’re also advancing our groundbreaking work in finding new, value-added uses for coal; for example, using this abundant, low-cost resource as a feedstock for high-value graphene and other materials.

The natural gas market continues to expand, and NETL sees great potential for this important resource. We’re investigating ways to convert domestic natural gas and CO2 to high-value commodities, including synthetic military fuels, petrochemicals and novel carbon materials. These are efforts that can underscore U.S. leadership in hydrocarbon manufacturing and enhance our nation’s energy security.   

We’re also exploring new territory in artificial intelligence and machine learning specially designed for application to fossil energy systems. For example, machine learning has great potential to add flexibility to the existing fleet, and to discover advanced materials for extreme environments and carbon capture. When applied to subsurface processes such as CO2 sequestration and the recovery of oil and gas, this expansion of our use of big data has tremendous potential to lead to real-time decision making for the subsurface. 

In another forward-looking research realm, our NETL team is advancing reaction science and using microwaves to advance technologies that can provide cleaner, more affordable energy and valuable chemicals. 

Our Albany facility has long nurtured a well-earned reputation as a world leader in alloy development, and 2020 promises exciting progress in materials for extreme environment applications that can improve the existing fleet and enable advanced fossil energy systems.

These are just a few examples of the areas NETL innovation is moving forward in 2020. I look forward to a productive year ahead.