Director's Corner

Release Date: September 10, 2018

Ensuring Sustainable Energy Production through Environmental Monitoring


0910-Dir-Corner.jpg

Responsible stewardship of the environment is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Energy and a key tenet of NETL’s mission. As we work to produce technological solutions for America’s energy challenges, environmental sustainability remains a driving factor. That’s why our research – from developing innovations for highly efficient energy production, to advancing technologies that enhance the extraction and transmission of domestic resources – is underpinned by innovations that monitor the environment to safeguard our air and water and ensure the safety and health of all Americans.

This month, NETL is featuring its work in environmental monitoring innovation. Read more in our web site’s Latest News section. It is work our researchers are proud of because it is based on solid success.

By producing technical solutions to America’s energy challenges, NETL has been a leader in environmental stewardship. For example:

  • In the 1970s, the Lab effectively took on acid rain through scrubber systems, low-NOx burners, and selective catalytic reduction technologies that were installed on the nation’s fleet of coal-based power plants.
  • The Lab’s work in the early 2000s to reduce the cost of mercury control at coal power plants is still protecting our air, water, and wildlife.

Similar work on even better ways to safely and sustainably produce coal, oil, and natural gas remains a top priority at NETL.

  • Our researchers are identifying new, clean ways to revive our nation’s coal industry.
  • NETL is finding ways to extract rare earth elements, a set of 17 elements essential to many modern electronics, from our domestic coal and coal byproducts.
  •  Our work on laser induced breakdown spectroscopy sensors, a miniaturized laser technology, is poised to accurately quantify concentrations of rare earth elements in coal and coal-related byproducts.
  • In the realm of natural gas, we’re working to locate and quantify methane leaks that may be present in the nation’s natural gas infrastructure, which delivers natural gas to more than 70 million consumers annually.
  • Our high-tech mobile environmental monitoring lab travels throughout Appalachia to study the impact of oil and gas production activities on air quality.
  • Back in the lab, we’re developing the science to better understand the subsurface environment and develop capabilities, which will allow monitoring of a range of energy technologies, from enhanced oil recovery to carbon storage to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, offshore wells, and more.

These are just a few examples of how NETL is working to enhance our nation’s energy dominance while safeguarding the environment. Ensuring that we wisely tap into our abundant energy resources, including coal, natural gas and oil, builds a healthy foundation for our economy and future growth. NETL is ensuring that production of those resources is sustainable and we’re developing the technologies to ensure those resources are used with maximum efficiency. I’m proud of the contributions our lab is making toward improving America’s technological edge in energy. I think you will be, too.


As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.