LabNotes - September 2013

NETL's Energy Data Exchange (EDX): Providing Access to Quality Energy Data


Many NETL research projects rely on access to reliable information about natural and engineered features associated with energy systems across the United States. In the spring of 2013, NETL released version 2.0 of the Energy Data Exchange (EDX), an online coordination and collaboration platform that supports energy research tech transfer and data needs. Researchers associated with DOE R&D can join EDX to access its repository of data, contribute research data and data-driven products, discover other users interested in similar data, build research teams, and share information. Two tools recently released through EDX highlight data and enhanced functionality intended to facilitate more efficient and timely research using EDX.

Geo Cube

In June, the first Geocube was released. Geocube is a flexible, customizable web mapping application that brings together key spatial datasets and information relevant to energy research needs for a given region. Geocube aims to connect users to data and information spanning the subsurface to the surface via EDX, offering the flexibility to develop maps with spatial elements of interest to them. Custom web-maps and/or the underlying datasets can be downloaded via the EDX’s Geocube tool. The first NETL Geocube focuses on the offshore Gulf of Mexico (GOM) region and supports the NETL Integrated Assessment Model (IAM) risk assessment for the Gulf of Mexico in deep and ultra-deepwater settings. The GOM Geocube integrates spatial datasets, allowing the user to view and analyze information about subsurface geology, oil and gas infrastructure, physical and biological characteristics of the water column, and human marine and coastal activities such as tourism, recreational and commercial fishing. Users can add additional data layers either via a search of NETL’s EDX system or by uploading their own datasets. Ultimately, the GOM Geocube offers NETL researchers and other users an advanced tool to search, find, integrate, display, and download information that will support a better understanding of this engineered-natural system. As NETL research progresses, additional Geocube regions will be added; new data layers and functionality will be made available through updates.

Geo Well
Geo Cube

A screen shot of a geospatial map of the Gulf of Mexico

The second development at EDX is the creation of geoWELL, a map-based application that provides access to primary on-line sources of subsurface geologic and wellbore (oil, gas, and underground injection) information for appropriate U.S. state, tribal and federal agencies. The application features links to United States federal agencies and individual states and tribes, so that the user can find subsurface geologic and wellbore information pertinent to those areas. The geoWELL application will assist NETL researchers and analysts as they seek information about these systems to support ongoing and future studies related to risks, impacts, and resources associated with fossil energy R&D. GeoWELL was envisioned by an NETL researcher and developed through the combined efforts of NETL and the Groundwater Protection Council, with support from URS Corporation, MATRIC, Coordinate Solutions, and Sextant Technical Services. The geoWELL application is an EDX Tool.

Information about other online tools and applications in the EDX tools library is located here:

Contact: Kelly Rose, 541-967-5883


Sorbents Capturing CO2 Will Make Power Plants Cleaner

When coal is used to generate electricity in power plants, carbon from the coal bonds with oxygen from air to make carbon dioxide (CO2). Due to concerns about how CO2 impacts global climate, NETL scientists are developing materials and processes to separate and capture it from power plants for permanent disposal. Ideally, the capture process will not create new waste materials, is quick and efficient, and the CO2 ends up as a high-pressure gas that can be transported in a pipeline to be injected into an oil field or a deep geologic formation.


Researchers at NETL are developing chemicals called sorbents that absorb carbon dioxide after it is created in power plants. Some sorbents react with the CO2 to create solid materials; these solids can be easily separated from gases in the power plant. Once separated, the solid is chemically broken down into CO2 gas and the original sorbent chemical is recovered, and thus re-used to capture more CO2. Good sorbents have a high CO2 capture capacity and react relatively rapidly with CO2 at temperatures close to those in the power plant. Reversing the reaction to regenerate the sorbent and release the CO2 must also be efficient and the conditions cannot be too extreme. Fortunately, there are literally millions of possible solid materials that could be used as sorbents, but identifying good ones is a bit like finding needles in a haystack, so NETL researchers use a combination of computer modeling and experiments to identify and test sorbents that will work in a power plant environment.

Scientist holding sorbents (pellets) in gloved hands.

Scientist holding sorbents (pellets) in gloved hands.

Computer programs can sort through mountains of thermodynamic data on materials reacting with carbon dioxide, and other programs can calculate those properties when they aren’t available. Using these programs together, many new materials can be evaluated rapidly to narrow down the field to the most promising few. Using this methodology, researchers investigated a series of lithium silicates with different Li2O/SiO2 ratios and explored their CO2 capture properties. They found that adding SiO2 to decrease this ratio made CO2 capture more favorable at power plant operating temperatures. This work was described recently in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

A magnesium hydroxide sorbent has recently been developed that can be used for carbon dioxide capture from coal gasification plant gas streams. These gas streams are at high pressures and relatively warm temperatures, and contain hydrogen and steam in addition to CO2. In the process, CO2 and Mg(OH)2 react to form magnesium carbonate at 150-250 °C and 380 psi, followed by breakdown of the magnesium carbonate above 350 °C and regeneration of Mg(OH)2. Because the process can work at higher pressure, it takes significantly less energy to compress the CO2 to make it ready for pipeline transport. An analysis compared a theoretical integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant using the Selexol process, a competing CO2 capture method, with one using the proposed Mg(OH)2 process. Using the magnesium hydroxide sorbent, the plant required 62% less energy to compress the CO2, and the overall efficiency of the plant increased by 1%.  U.S. Patent 8,470,276 has been issued on the new process.

Contact: Ranjani Siriwardane, 304-285-4513 and Yuhua Duan, 412-386-5771.