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Early Interest in Off-Roading Drove NETL Engineer’s Career Choice
Mike Fasouletos

Growing up near Moundsville, West Virginia, NETL’s Mike Fasouletos loved riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dirt bikes and practically anything with a motor and wheels on the family’s farm.

Those activities were more than a hobby. They drove Fasouletos to a career in engineering.

“My dream job was going to be designing the next great bike or ATV for the big manufacturers who made the machines I loved to ride,” Fasouletos said.

Although he still has one of his favorite dirt bikes and a side-by-side off-road vehicle, Fasouletos’ interests in motorsports have taken a backseat to other priorities and responsibilities. But that desire to help find solutions and to perfect designs and processes or find new ones, the crux of an engineer’s work, has never waned, especially as Fasouletos advances priority projects to address climate change.

As a supervisor for Point Source Carbon Capture (PSCC) at NETL, Fasouletos leads a team of eight project managers who are collaborating with researchers at the nation’s top universities, in industry and at research organizations to develop cutting-edge decarbonization technologies.    

Projects advanced by the team are designed to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from point sources, such as fossil fuel-based power generation and industrial facilities, so the greenhouse gas can be sequestered in the subsurface or used as a feedstock to produce value-added products rather than emitted into the atmosphere.

The PSCC team is currently managing 66 active projects. More than $602 million in federal funding has been allocated to complete the research. Project partners are contributing an additional $223 million. All projects support the nation’s historic efforts to decarbonize the power grid by 2035 and establish a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.

“It’s no longer a question of if we can develop these technologies. It’s now a question of when and how quickly we can get these technologies prepared for commercial deployment and begin to capture massive volumes of CO2 from power generating facilities as well as blast furnaces, cement kilns and other super emitters,” Fasouletos said.

PSCC research and development efforts led by the NETL team have resulted in reductions in both capital and operating costs through implementation of energy and process efficiencies. The program is accelerating commercially deployable solutions, such as solvents, sorbents and membranes, that can be applied to a wide spectrum of CO2 emissions sources.

Projects range from conceptual engineering and materials design at laboratory and bench scale to large-scale testing and front-end engineering and design studies.

“While all projects are important, our large pilot projects are especially exciting because they represent a final step before the technology advances to the demonstration phase and commercialization,” Fasouletos said.

A Career Path Endorsed by Mom and Dad

Some good motherly advice helped convince Fasouletos to study mechanical engineering at West Virginia University.

“Growing up, I enjoyed math and helping my dad troubleshoot and repair equipment,” Fasouletos said. “My mom, who was a nurse, knew my potential and suggested that I look into engineering. Plus, in high school, we had a job-shadowing program, and I spent a day with an engineer, which only confirmed the career path I would begin.”

After completing a mechanical engineering internship at CONSOL Energy, Fasouletos joined the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety & Health Administration, where he spent 14 years investigating accidents and implementing engineering controls to prevent reoccurrences and inspecting mining operations in Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) caught his attention. “I really wanted to be a supervisor and lead a team. After doing some research, I discovered there would be more opportunities to learn new things and advance my career with DOE and NETL,” said Fasouletos, who joined NETL in May 2019 as a project manager and was promoted to supervisor in August 2023.

Today, Fasouletos lives in Kingwood, West Virginia, with his wife, Kerry, a pharmacist, and their children, Zoe, 13, Ayla, 12, and Andi, 9. There, he still enjoys an occasional off-road adventure and raises his own small beef herd.

“I can’t completely get away from it,” he said.

NETL is a DOE national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.