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How NETL’s Work in CCUS Is Helping Enable Sustainable Energy from Fossil Fuels

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is a process that captures carbon dioxide emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses or stores it so it will not enter the atmosphere. CCUS is used in processes like enhanced oil recovery to increase the production from oil fields that were previously considered depleted. 

Together with our research and project partners, NETL is pursuing new coal-fueled energy generation systems with ultra-low emissions, offering competitively priced electric power with improved efficiency, increased plant availability, and reduced cooling water requirements. Our researchers are hard at work discovering ways to reduce the cost of carbon capture and put it to work for America. We’re developing and advancing technologies to enable safe, cost-effective, permanent geologic storage. And, we’re finding ways to use CO2 to generate value-added products to provide revenue generation that can partially offset carbon capture costs. 

In one success story, NETL used its revolutionary computational framework to screen more than a million mixed matrix membranes (MMM) and to identify promising MMMs for post-combustion carbon capture. In this study, MMMs were shown to have the potential to decrease the cost of carbon capture by greater than 24% as compared to polymer membrane alone. This class of membranes is now being considered for scaled up demonstration using actual flue gas at the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama, advancing their commercial feasibility.

In another project, NETL energy analysis researchers developed a first-of-its-kind suite of tools to enable better decision-making regarding the economic challenges of CCUS. The tools are helping stakeholders effectively evaluate the costs of implementing CCUS technologies in electric power and industrial plants, offering a step toward widespread implementation of this important strategy for mitigating CO2 emissions. 

The NETL-supported Petra Nova project is another success showing how CCUS can economically support the flexibility and sustainability of fossil fuels at commercial scale. When we celebrated Petra Nova’s three-year anniversary in January this year, the project had captured more than 3.9 million short (U.S.) tons of CO2 and nearby West Ranch Oil Field had produced more than 4.2 million barrels of oil through enhanced oil recovery, since Petra Nova began operations in January 2017. 

Throughout April, we’re featuring our work in CCUS. Check out our newsroom to read more about how:

  • The NETL-managed CarbonSAFE program is advancing commercialization of large-scale geologic storage. 
  • NETL Project Manager Katy Daniels is applying her love for the environment toward making a difference in the fight to mitigate climate change.
  • The National Carbon Capture Center is validating energy innovations from across the globe. 

I’m proud to share with you these highlights of our Lab’s work in CCUS and the impact we’re making in enhancing our nation’s energy security with sounds environmental stewardship.