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NETL's Water Energy Research Portfolio


Integrated R&D Across the Lab’s Fossil Energy Programs

The National Energy Technology Laboratory has long recognized the critical link between sustainable water and energy.  Since 2002, NETL has been engaged in integrated, comprehensive research and development (R&D) to advance our understanding of fossil energy exploration, extraction, development, and use on freshwater availability and quality with the goal of improving the security and resiliency of our fossil-energy investments.  Research on water is being carried out in a synergistic manner across the Lab’s programs in thermoelectric power generation, oil and gas development, carbon capture and storage, value product recovery, coal combustion products, university coal research, life cycle analysis, and systems modeling and analysis.   NETL is now part of the DOE’s National Alliance for Water Innovation Desalination Hub that is directed at advancing technologies and processes to achieve “pipe parity” in the treatment and utilization of saline and other non-traditional water sources.  Future activities may include the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to critical water-energy challenges.  Collectively, these projects support the DOE’s Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House initiated, DOE-led effort to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water.  


Carbon Capture

Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage

Research directed at water use and management associated with: (1) CO2 capture and compression; (2) subsurface CO2 storage brine extraction, treatment, and reuse; and (3) carbon utilization.

Change Value Product

Value Products Recovery

Research to recover rare earth elements and other value products from acid mine drainage water and other effluents from fossil energy extraction and use.

Oil & Gas

Oil and Gas Development

Research to develop advanced pre-desal treatment technologies for produced water associated with oil and gas production to reduce the volume of water requiring deep well disposal and by creating an alternative supply of water for regional users.


NAWI (Desal Hub) and RIC

Supporting the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) through NETL’s IDAES to develop and apply models to optimize the treatment of saline and other "non-traditional" water sources. RIC is also conducting research on advanced desalination technology, wastewater sorbents, and AMD value product recovery.

Systems Engineering and Analysis

Systems Engineering and Analysis

Developing and applying modeling tools and reports on the nexus between fossil energy and water. Including the first prototype water-energy model to be coupled with the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS).  Also conducting water life cycle analyses on fossil energy production and use.

Coal Combustion Residuals

Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)

Research directed at the analysis and characterization of fly ash and other CCR to enhance their environmentally sound management and reuse.



Support U.S./China Clean Energy Research Center for Water-Energy Technologies to build and transfer knowledge on energy and water between the two countries .  Analyses of water-energy interactions in other countries is also performed.

To find out more about NETL’s current Financial Opportunity Announcements (FOA) and other business opportunities related to the water-energy nexus visit NETL's Soliciations and Funding Opportunities page .