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More than a dozen young students experienced a one-of-a-kind adventure in science Friday, April 19, at NETL’s Morgantown, West Virginia, site. While NETL often welcomes graduate students seeking knowledge and experience, the latest visitors sought a more tangible prize: the distinctive Nova award patch or Supernova award medal from Boy Scouts of America (BSA). As part of their efforts to earn the awards, 13 local Cub Scouts and their parents toured the site to learn about NETL’s work in multiphase computational fluid dynamics, high-efficiency hybrid power systems, solid oxide fuel cells and more. Much like NETL’s K-12 STEM Education and Outreach program, BSA’s Nova awards program seeks to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through engaging activities. The Cubs of visiting Cub Scout Pack 52, Webelos I Den are working to earn their Nova and Supernova awards by completing BSA’s Adventures in Science activity. One of the six requirements is to visit a laboratory or related facility that employs scientists.
NETL experts on geo-data science and oil and natural gas technology shared their technical insight with more than 250 peers from around the world at this week’s 4th annual Machine Learning in Oil & Gas conference. NETL Oil & Gas Technology Manager Jared Ciferno and Research Geo-Data Scientist Kelly Rose were among the featured speakers at the event, organized by the Energy Conference Network and held April 17-18 in Houston. Machine learning refers to a computer system or program’s ability to learn from data using algorithms, statistical models and pattern recognition. Many modern technologies — such as self-driving cars, web search tools and social media sites — employ machine learning to improve performance.  When it comes to oil and natural gas operations, machine learning offers vast opportunities to increase efficiency, eliminate downtime, enhance safety and reduce costs. The conference brought together leading professionals from every stage of oil and gas production to learn about the latest technology developments and future possibilities for machine learning.
To really understand a complex challenge, it pays to take a close look at the details. NETL researchers are taking this approach as they use X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to understand and characterize rare earth oxides on the atomic level. The pioneering research was recently selected for publication in the June edition of the journal Surface Science Spectra. To view the study, go here. Rare earth elements (REEs) are crucial in the development of technologies and tools vital to daily life, from cell phone batteries to medical imaging and water treatment applications. REEs are a set of 15 lanthanide elements within the periodic table that are actually not rare in nature, but occur in trace amounts as compounds with other metals. NETL is aggressively pursuing research and development for technologies capable of producing a domestic supply of high-purity, salable rare earth compounds.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy and NETL have announced up to $39 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects that aim to improve oil and natural gas technologies. The United States is now the world’s leader in both oil and natural gas production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. natural gas production hit a new record high in 2018, an 11 percent increase from 2017. In addition, U.S. crude oil production grew 17 percent in 2018, surpassing the previous record in 1970.   
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have issued a Notice of Intent for a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) expected to fund cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects on next-generation coal gasification technologies that have lower capital costs than traditional utility-scale plants. The objective of DE-FOA-0001994, Next Generation Gasifier Concepts and Components to Advance Modular Coal Gasification, is to competitively solicit and award R&D projects that will develop advanced technology that can implement coal gasification processes into small modular systems. FE seeks projects that will also work toward increasing the efficiency of producing coal syngas for applications in power generation or combined heat and power through process and/or reaction intensification. FE’s Gasification Program will support this FOA.
WVU’s bench-scale fluidized bed gasifier is providing valuable experimental data that is helping validate computer models at NETL.
NETL’s world-renowned computer modeling capabilities are front and center in a pivotal collaboration with West Virginia University (WVU). Computational modeling is a critical tool in technology development, and the forward-looking efforts by the NETL-WVU research team are improving the accuracy of fossil-fuel energy systems models — work that will ultimately help provide the nation with cost-effective, sustainable and efficient clean energy. The NETL-led team is investigating gasification, a promising technology that can convert fossil fuels like coal into a highly useful mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide called synthesis gas or syngas. Because it can be used directly as fuel and as a precursor to an array of chemicals and products, syngas could become a major game changer in the fossil fuel industry. The NETL-WVU team is seeking to understand how to optimize gasification and syngas production. 
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL have announced today investments for the Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, and Transformative) initiative, which aims to develop coal plants of the future that will provide secure, stable, reliable power with near zero emissions.  “Coal is an abundant, affordable, resilient, and reliable energy source that, through innovation, will continue to be an important part of the U.S. portfolio for decades to come,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “The Department’s Coal FIRST initiative is helping the Nation secure its domestic power supply by developing plants that are not only more reliable, resilient, efficient, and near zero emissions, but that can adapt to the changing electrical grid.” Under the Coal FIRST initiative, DOE is supporting research and development (R&D) projects that will help develop plants that:
U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) Karen S. Evans visited NETL in Morgantown Thursday, April 11 to meet with laboratory leadership and discuss ongoing DOE efforts aimed at improving cybersecurity. The visit was a return to Morgantown for Evans. She earned an MBA and a BA in chemistry from West Virginia University. NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., said that under Evans’ leadership, CESER is leading DOE’s efforts to secure U.S. energy infrastructure against all hazards, reduce the risks of and impacts from cyber events and other disruptive events, and assist with restoration activities. He said her visit to NETL in Morgantown featured specific lab tours and in-depth discussions on how the laboratory can assist CESER in its national mission.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL have announced up to $87.3 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects for advanced coal technologies and research. DOE Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg announced this R&D funding at the Annual Project Review Meeting for Crosscutting, Rare Earth Elements, Gasification, and Transformative Power Generation at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. “Coal-fueled power plants are a significant source of electrical power generation in the United States. The goal with these projects is to ensure that the United States can have a fleet of coal-fired power plants that provides stable power generation with operational flexibility, high efficiency, low emissions, and lower costs for consumers,” said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg. “By investing in this R&D, we will enable the United States to continue maximizing its domestic energy resources while protecting our supply of reliable and affordable electricity.” In 2017, coal was the second-largest energy source for electricity generation in the United States. 
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) recently kicked off Phase II of an electric grid security project with Colorado-based company Taekion, formerly known as Grid7, LLC, that aims to prevent cyberattacks on power plants by leveraging patent-pending security applications including those based on blockchain technology. Blockchains can be thought of as ledgers – just like the simple records that people have used for millennia to document sales and other data transactions. Each chunk of information (e.g., a sale) is stored in a block that is securely linked to the next. One core strength of blockchain technologies is that the ledger is not stored in any centralized location but is distributed (i.e., stored in multiple locations). Additionally, there is always consensus from all parties on the content contained in a blockchain.