Coal and Power Systems
Advancing our Nation's Portfolio of Coal RD&D Technologies - Read More!
Meeting National Goals
NETL's RD&D efforts in coal and power systems contribute to several vital national goals:
- Clean power generation. Coal fuels the majority of power generation capacity in the United States and in many other areas of the world. With technology advances, future coal power systems will be dramatically cleaner and more efficient than plants based on older technologies.
- Secure and reliable energy supplies. Coal is an abundant domestic energy resource. At current rates of consumption, coal could meet U.S. needs for more than 250 years. With new technologies, our Nation can use this valuable resource while also meeting environmental protection goals.
- Climate change. On a global and national level, coal use accounts for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. Making coal power systems more efficient contributes to the national goal of reducing carbon intensity.
- Toward a hydrogen economy. Our large domestic coal resources offer a viable mid-term resource for producing the large quantities of hydrogen that will be required to meet the Administration's vision of hydrogen as America's clean energy choice.
Focus of NETL RD&D
RD&D efforts in coal and power systems fall into three categories:
- Technologies that enable existing coal power plants to cost-effectively meet environmental requirements. NETL and its research partners are developing environmental control technologies for retrofitting existing power plants, with application to new plants as well. Key areas of research include cost-effective control of mercury, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and fine particulate emissions; beneficial uses for coal utilization byproducts; and innovations to minimize the impact of fossil-fuel use on the Nation's water resources.
Technologies for coal power plants of the future with dramatically improved performance. NETL is developing a technology base for the highly efficient, near-zero-emissions power plants of tomorrow. Technologies under development for future power plants include coal gasification, advanced turbines, combustion technologies, and fuel cells. The FutureGen prototype ultimately will combine advanced systems with carbon sequestration and coal fuels technology to co-produce electricity and hydrogen with near-zero emissions. To support coal and power systems development, NETL conducts a range of pre-competitive advanced research, focused on breakthroughs in materials, sensors and controls, biotechnology and bioprocessing, pollutant formation and removal, and advanced computational processes. NETL also supports advanced research through the Department's Coal Utilization Sciences, Historically Black Universities and Colleges, and University Coal Research programs.
- Clean coal demonstration projects. Since 1986, NETL has actively supported cost-shared demonstration of clean coal technologies, resulting in the acceptance and application of many innovative technologies. Demonstration projects address needs not met by the private sector. They promote technologies that have not been proven commercially, that have wide applicability to the power plant fleet, and offer potential for substantial public benefit. Demonstrations must raise the bar over existing technologies in terms of efficiency, environmental performance, and cost. NETL's clean coal demonstrations support President Bush's:
- Clean Coal Power Initiative, a 10-year, $2-billion program designed to further the Roadmap milestones with the government providing up to 50 percent of the cost of demonstrating a range of promising technologies, and
- Power Plant Improvement Initiative, established in October 2000 to further the commercial-scale demonstration of clean coal technologies at existing and new electric generating facilities.
Coal and power systems RD&D contracts are managed by NETL's Strategic Center for Coal. For information on current or past solicitations related to coal and power systems, see Solicitations and Business Opportunities.
Other R&D managed by NETL's Strategic Center for Coal, Office of Coal and Power R&D, includes:
- Development of a portfolio of cost-effective, environmentally sound carbon sequestration technology options
- R&D focusing on technologies that facilitate the production of hydrogen from coal fuels for utilization in fuel cells and other systems
NETL conducts substantial activities related to coal power technologies in all four of its onsite research focus areas: Computational and Basic Sciences, Energy System Dynamics, Geological and Environmental Systems, and Materials Science.