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NETL is bringing uncommon skills, equipment, analysis and communication tools to the work of a national laboratory consortia working to understand and improve how biomass feedstock integrates with combustion processes in biorefineries. NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., announced that the Laboratory, one of 17 Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, has officially joined the DOE Biomass Energy Technology Office’s Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortia Research program. Other consortia members include Argonne, Sandia, Los Alamos, Berkeley, Idaho, National Renewable Energy, Oak Ridge, and the Pacific Northwest national laboratories. According to DOE, a feedstock is any renewable, biological material that can be used directly as a fuel or converted to another form of fuel or energy product. Biomass feedstocks are the plant and algal materials that can be used to create fuels like ethanol, butanol, biodiesel, and other hydrocarbon fuels. Biomass feedstocks include corn starch, sugarcane juice, crop residues such as corn and sugarcane bagasse, purpose-grown grass crops, and woody plants. They are considered renewable resources.
A delegation of researchers and policy analysts from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are exchanging ideas and plans for expanding and improving West Virginia’s potential for natural gas-related product development at the eighth Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference today and tomorrow at the Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown, West Virginia. The event, sponsored by the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, was created to allow companies interested in locating new facilities or expanding existing operations in West Virginia to gain an expanded understanding of the potential for new product development in the state.
Comp Tools
NETL is using powerful computational tools to identify advanced membrane materials that can cut carbon capture costs to less than $50 per metric ton, an achievement that will boost the viability of the nation’s coal-fired power fleet to meet America’s growing energy needs. Polymer-based membranes provide a simple means of separating carbon dioxide (CO2) from post-combustion flue gas to meet federal emissions requirements at coal-fired power plants. However, identifying optimal materials that offer high permeability and selectivity at an affordable cost is a challenge, with millions of possibilities. NETL partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to investigate the use of mixed matrix membranes (MMMs), which incorporate porous nanoparticles known as metal-organic frameworks into the matrix of a sturdy polymer to enhance its capabilities. The team — led by NETL’s Jan Steckel, Ph.D., who worked with Pitt’s Chris Wilmer, Ph.D., and Lab colleagues Olukayode Ajayi, Ph.D., and Samir Budhathoki — modeled more than 1 million possible MMMs to evaluate their properties and estimate the associated cost of carbon capture.
FOA Logo
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NETL  have announced up to $20 million in federal funding for cooperative agreements that will help accelerate the deployment of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). The selected projects will support the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) Carbon Storage Program. “Carbon capture is essential to lowering global carbon emissions,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "By accelerating the deployment of this indispensable technology, the United States can continue to use its domestic energy resources for decades to come without compromising the environment.” Through this funding opportunity, DOE aims to award cooperative agreements to research and development (R&D) projects that will help identify and address regional storage and transport challenges currently facing the development of CCUS.  This funding opportunity seeks to preserve, share, and advance existing R&D by:
Briggs White
Briggs White, Ph.D., Technology Manager of NETL’s Crosscutting Research Program, was a keynote speaker at the Southwest Emerging Technology Symposium and Regional Small Business Summit, March 26-27 in El Paso, Texas. The symposium was hosted by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), an institution with a long history of NETL research collaboration under the Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Other Minority Institutions (HBCU/OMI) initiative. White manages two of the Department of Energy’s (DOE)’s longest standing university training programs — the University Coal Research program and the HBCU/OMI program. Both programs generate fresh ideas, tap unique talent, define applicable fundamental scientific principles, and develop advanced concepts for generating new and improved technologies across the full spectrum of fossil energy R&D programs. The programs include annual competitions administered by NETL where grants are made available for capacity building and student training. Previous awards have focused on sensors and controls; computational energy sciences; water management, and advanced materials for power generation technologies.
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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL have selected two additional projects to receive $5 million in total federal funding: one each under DE-FOA-0001829 Developing Technologies for Advancement of Associated Geologic Storage for Basinal Geo-Laboratories, and DE-FOA-0001830 Transformational Pre-Combustion Carbon Capture Technologies.  A key priority for FE is to reduce the cost and risk of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies to accelerate widespread deployment. 
Natural gas operations
Broad national estimates of methane emissions obscure the ability to identify significant sources of methane at the regional level and the ability to target methane reduction opportunities effectively. An NETL-led study of natural gas liquids unloading provides a clear example of the importance of methane quantification research to improve the performance of the U.S. natural gas industry. The study highlights the need to consider variability in episodic emission sources and regional differences in developing robust methane emissions estimates. Methane is the primary component in natural gas, which provides abundant and affordable power for U.S. homes, businesses and more. However, methane within the atmosphere also contributes to the greenhouse effect. The Lab’s work to identify methane emissions sources and improve emissions estimates aids efforts by NETL and other research facilities to develop clean technologies that reduce methane emissions to ensure the public’s health, safety and security.
NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., met recently with Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas in Morgantown, West Virginia, to discuss how the two organizations can collaborate on opportunities that bolster economic and workforce development in the Appalachian region. The leaders and staff representing NETL and ARC discussed ways both organizations can work together to support development activities in the Appalachian region. Key discussions focused on the transformative research NETL conducts on energy and advanced manufacturing and programs that support future innovation and entrepreneurship based on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  During the visit, Thomas and his staff toured NETL’s Morgantown site and visited with scientists to discuss energy research underway including key activities involving advanced modeling and computing.
Cutting-edge computational tools developed by the NETL-led Institute for the Design of Advanced Energy Systems (IDAES) are available for the first time as open-source software. The revolutionary IDAES Process Systems Engineering (PSE) framework expands process modeling and optimization capabilities to boost the efficiency, reliability and flexibility of today’s fossil fuel-based power plants and accelerate next-generation energy technologies. The IDAES PSE framework addresses critical needs associated with improving the nation’s aging fossil energy fleet and developing tomorrow’s energy systems — challenging endeavors with the potential for considerable time and financial investments. Through a revolutionary process modeling approach that supports the design, analysis and optimization of fossil energy systems, the framework enables stakeholders to expedite technology development and improve operations by allowing them to assess how complex systems work together and consider novel processes for the future.  
the grid
Peter Balash, Ph.D., a senior economist at NETL in Pittsburgh will be part of a day-long national event dedicated to power grid improvement topics that will also feature appearances by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. David McKinley (WV 1st), and representatives of private industry and academia Friday, March 29 in the nation’s Capital. The event, titled “Powering the Grid: Access, Affordability and Fuel Diversity” will address policy debates and changing technologies involved with improvements to the nation’s power grid. The discussion will occur at Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Avenue NW in Washington. The event is free, but registration is required. Information on registration is available here.