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Viktor Kusuma works with gas separation membranes that can be cured by exposure to ultraviolet light. High-performance materials such as these can be used in CO2 separations from flue gas, among other applications.
NETL In-House CCUS Research Is Advancing Cleaner Energy from Abundant Coal

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

Despite recent coal-based power plant retirements, coal remains a foundational energy option for our nation contributing nearly one-fourth of electricity generated in 2019. The United States is endowed with vast amounts of coal that can provide affordable, reliable energy to people across the country and around the world. Today’s challenge is finding new ways to use this abundant resource and use it more efficiently and with reduced emissions. 

The future of the coal sector depends on the advancement of cutting-edge clean coal-related research, and so too does the future of the global energy sector. The United States must maintain its global leadership in research and development in these critical technologies, and I believe that all starts with the work being done at NETL.

One of the Lab’s key research priorities is finding ways to reduce the cost and risk of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) to enable wider deployment of this important technology. 

We’re advancing capture systems and solvents, sorbents and membranes that can effectively capture CO2 derived from power generation and other industrial processes. We’re also developing the tools and techniques needed to enable safe, permanent CO2 storage and pioneer its reuse for industry. Because CO2 is valuable for industrial processes, we’re researching ways to turn this byproduct into valuable products, such as fuels, chemicals and materials. We’re also finding economical, sustainable ways to use CO2 in enhanced resource recovery, which can make the economics of CCUS more attractive.  

This month, we’re featuring our in-house CCUS work. I invite you to visit our newsroom to learn more about: 

  • A new iteration of NETL’s CO2-SCREEN software application that is enabling researchers to more accurately estimate CO2 storage potential in previously overlooked locations to open the door for CCUS projects on a large scale, along with new enhanced oil recovery operations.
  •  NETL core characterization work that is providing the data needed for accurate decision-making in CCUS projects. This work uses sophisticated technology, including three computerized tomography (CT) scanners and a multi-sensor core logging unit, to gain insights into the physical characteristics and elemental composition of rock formations from cylindrical samples extracted from thousands of feet below the surface.
  • The NETL-led National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP), a multi-national laboratory initiative with ten years of success breaking down barriers to the commercial deployment of large-scale geologic carbon storage (GCS), that is expanding its award-winning toolset and forging new collaborations that will continue to improve its ability to address critical questions of GCS risk management. 

These are just a few examples of the cutting-edge coal-related technologies for which NETL continues to lead development. Our talented team of researchers are also advancing coal beneficiation including coal to high-value materials, rare-earth elements from coal and coal byproducts, advanced turbine research, materials for extreme environments, technologies for improving the existing fleet and technologies for the coal plants of the future.
This is a wide-ranging array of research areas, but what they all have in common is a potential to positively affect people’s daily lives by enabling clean, affordable energy to underpin our nation’s prosperity and protect our environment for future generations.