Features - August 2013

News Release

Release Date: October 28, 2011

NETL Team Earn High Achievement Awards from Secretary of Energy
Lab Recognized for Response to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Contributions to Hanford Site Clean-Up

Washington, D.C.— Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today honored the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and several partner agencies with Secretary of Energy Achievement Awards for contributions to two significant environmental efforts in 2010.

NETL and its partners were recognized for their work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and DOE’s remediation activities at the Hanford nuclear production site. In both of these efforts, NETL employees and contractors contributed expertise, engaged in exceptional teamwork, and dedicated time and effort beyond the call of duty to address these significant problems facing our nation.

The Office of Fossil Energy’s Chief Operating Officer Chuck McConnell lauded the NETL teams for their contributions. "These awards recognize what has long been the tradition at NETL: commitment, perseverance, innovation, and presenting practical solutions to problems facing the American people. All of us are proud that NETL’s work is making substantial and beneficial contributions to our nation. I am proud to work with exceptional colleagues who invest themselves in addressing the energy needs of the nation and the world."

Deepwater Horizon Flow Estimation Group/Nodal Analysis Team

NETL is recognized for its swift and effective response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group/Nodal Analysis Team was led by NETL’s Dr. George Guthrie and staffed by researchers from NETL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The team put forth a multi-agency effort critical to estimating the rate of oil flowing into the Gulf and, in turn, to developing options to cap the well.

The team operated efficiently and worked tirelessly to assemble, reduce, and analyze data and vet the results. Their analyses guided key decisions, helping speed the ultimate solution and reduce the environmental cost of the disaster. For their efforts, three NETL staff members received Director’s Awards for Exemplary Service to the Nation from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In presenting the awards, USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt said, "The nation was privileged to have a cadre of dedicated and capable government, academic, and independent scientists to call upon during this disaster."

Hanford Site Validation and Verification Evaluation

At the Hanford Site in the state of Washington, nine nuclear reactors and their associated facilities produced plutonium for our nation’s defense during World War II and throughout the Cold War. Today, the site is home to one of the most complex and challenging environmental clean-up projects in our nation’s history.

An NETL team of recognized experts in computational fluid dynamics evaluated Bechtel National Inc.’s (BNI’s) pulse-jet mixing vessel design, developed for the waste treatment and immobilization plant that BNI is designing and building at the site. The plant will be the world’s first chemical processing facility capable of turning radioactive liquid waste into a stable glass form suitable for safe, permanent disposal. The pulse-jet mixing system must be designed to safely process the 53 million gallons of liquid nuclear waste stored in aging tanks at the site today.

The NETL team analyzed BNI’s computer modeling process and made technical recommendations for improving the company’s verification and validation process and, beyond the original scope of work, addressing potential issues with the pulse-jet mixer design. The methodical, precautionary efforts of NETL and BNI, in close association with Hanford’s Office of River Protection and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, will help ensure that the pulse-jet mixing system is safe, secure, and sound in design. It also lays the groundwork for future applications in the nuclear industry and across the energy sector.

More About the Award

The Secretary of Energy Achievement Award is one of three types of Secretary’s Honor Awards, the highest nonmonetary awards an employee or contractor can receive from DOE. Bestowed annually, Achievement Awards recognize exceptional service and collaboration by a DOE team of employees or contractors, with winners selected by the Secretary after panel review. Two other Secretary’s Honor Awards, the James R. Schlesinger Award and the Excellence Award, are given to individuals for exceptional service.