National Energy Technology Laboratory

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The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is a science, technology, and energy laboratory owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). As part of DOE's national laboratory system, NETL supports DOE's mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States. Through onsite and contracted research, NETL develops technologies to resolve the environmental, supply, and reliability constraints of producing and using fossil resources. Resolving these constraints is critical to ensure reliable, secure, affordable, and environmentally responsible supplies of energy for the nation's growing economy. More than 1,200 employees work at NETL's five sites; roughly half are Federal employees and half are site-support contractors. Major site-support contractors include URS Corporation - Washington Division; Platinum Solutions; Booz Allen Hamilton; Keylogic Systems; Leonardo Technologies; Performance Results; SRA International; Ultra Electronics & ProLogic.


1910: The U.S. Dept. of Interior (Bureau of Mines) established the Pittsburgh Experiment Station in Bruceton, Pennsylvania.[1]

The focus of the Station was to offer training for coal miners and to conduct research on coal-mining related safety equipment and practices. It also included a coal mine for the experimental purposes.

1918: The U. S. Dept. of Interior (Bureau of Mines) opened the Petroleum Experiment Station in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The focus of the Station was to pursue systematic application of engineering and scientific methods to oil drilling, helping the oil industry create operating and safety standards.

1936: New facilities and research activity expended at the Petroleum Experiment Station as the result of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, the Works Progress Administration.

1946: The Synthesis Gas Branch Experiment Station was established as government-sponsored coal-gasification research at West Virginia University facilities in Morgantown, West Virginia. The focus of the station was to produce synthesis gas from coal.

1948: The Bruceton (PA) Experiment Station became the Bruceton Research Center as the result of The Synthetic Liquid Fuels Act (1944).

1954: Three Dept of Interior groups (WVU Synthesis Gas Branch Experiment Station, petroleum and natural gas recovery research group located in Franklin, Pennsylvania since 1942, and a safety inspections group, located in Fairmont, West Virginia since 1946) were consolidated to create the Appalachian Experiment Station for onsite coal research at the current Morgantown, WV location.

1975: The new U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration incorporated the former DOI sites as the Bartlesville Energy Research Center, the Morgantown Energy Research Center, and the Pittsburgh Energy Research Center. The Centers begin overseeing federally funded contracts for fossil energy research and development.

1977: All three research centers became technology center under the newly established U.S. DOE: Bartlesville Energy Technology Center (BETC), Morgantown Energy Technology Center (METC), and Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center (PETC). The Centers’ focus included on-site research in coal, oil, and gas technologies as well as management of contracts for research and development conducted by universities, industry, and other research institutions.

1983: Operation of the BETC transferred to IIT Research Institute, a private organization based in Chicago. Also, the Bartlesville Project Office was established to oversee the petroleum research activities.

1996: METC and PETC were consolidated to form the Federal Energy Technology Center (FETC); both sites 65 miles (105 km) apart but the same administration.

1998: National Petroleum Technology Office (NPTO) in Tulsa, Oklahoma was established and the Bartlesville Project Office was closed.

1999: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) came to the existence as DOE’s 15th national laboratory.

2000: NPTO joined NETL.

2001: NETL opened the Arctic Energy Office in Fairbanks, Alaska, to promote research, development, and deployment of (I) oil recovery, gas-to-liquids, and natural gas production and transportation and, (II) electric power in Arctic climates, including fossil, wind, geothermal, fuel cells, and small hydroelectric facilities.

2005: The Albany Research Center (ARC) in Albany, Oregon, merged with NETL. The ARC has expertise in life cycle research and advanced materials for the energy system challenges of today and tomorrow.

2008: The NPTO moves from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Sugarland, Texas.[2]


NETL is composed of the following seven strategic units:

Office of Research and Development (ORD) conducts basic and applied research and development in fossil energy and environmental science area. Four focus areas of the ORD are (A) Energy system dynamics, (B) Geological and environmental systems, (C) Computational and basic sciences, (D) Materials Science.

Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil (SCNGO) handles all the DOE’s research and development related to natural gas and oil to resolve the environmental, supply, and reliability constraints of producing and using oil and gas resources.

Strategic Center for Coal (SCC) works to ensure national energy security and economic prosperity through production of clean, affordable electricity and fuels from coal.

Office of Systems, Analyses and Planning (OSAP) performs studies of complex, large systems and the interactions amongst those systems, including social, economic, political, regulatory, technological, design, and management institutions.

Project Management Center (PMC) performs overall management and implementation of other federal agencies’ advanced initiatives, providing technical expertise, analytical tools, and a full suite of implementation skills.

Office of Institutional and Business Operations (OIBO) plans, directs, and coordinates administrative, operational, construction, and staff support activities for the Laboratory.

Office of Crosscutting Functions (OCF) plans, directs, and coordinates policy, administrative, and site support contract management activities that crosscut Laboratory activities.


NETL has sites in Albany, Oregon; Fairbanks, Alaska; Morgantown, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Houston, Texas. Together, these sites have 117 buildings and 242 acres of land combined.


Cynthia Powell: Director (Acting)

Ralph Carabetta: Deputy Director

Thomas M. Torkos, Chief Operating Officer

Joseph P. Strakey, Jr., Chief Technology Officer

Cinthia Powell: Director (acting) of Office of Research and Development

John R. Duda, Director, Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil

Ken Kern, Director, Office of Systems, Analyses and Planning

Scot Klara: Director of Strategic Center for Coal

Chuck Zeh: Director of Project Management Center

Tom Wilson: Office of Institutional and Business Operations


Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance[edit]

The Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) was established in 1999 under the NETL leadership to develop a partnership between government, industry, and other R&D organizations in order to promote the Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) for use in stationary, transportation, and military applications. It consists mainly of industry teams and core technology program partners. The goal of the industry reams is to individually develop SOFC system with a power output in the range of 3-10 kW. The industry teams are Acumentrics, Cummins Power Generation, Delphi Automotive Systems, FuelCell Energy, General Electric Global Research, and Siemens Power Generation. The core technology program partners consisted of national laboratories, universities, and other R&D institutions and their goal is to provide the R&D support to industry teams in order to overcome technical challenges. Industry teams’ projects are structured in three phases over ten years with certain goals to be achieved by each team at the end of each phase. The final goals are to develop a 3-10 kW SOFC with a cost of $400/kW and efficiency of 30% for mobile and 40% for stationary applications. Also, total operating hours for the system should not be less than 40000 hrs for stationary and 4000 hrs for military applications.

Regional Universities Alliance[edit]

The Regional Universities Alliance (RUA) was established to develop collaborative research relationships between NETL and regional universities. These universities are Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Tech. The overall goal behind establishing the RUA was to develop regional energy expertise by expanding interactions with CMU, Pitt, WVU, PSU, and VT. Research is not contracted to regional universities, but it is a collaboration with NETL onsite research. University researchers contribute ideas and talent to NETL onsite research. RUA focuses mainly on the following four focus areas (1) Material Science and Engineering, (2) Energy System Dynamics, (3) Computational and Basic Sciences, and (4) Geological and Environmental Systems


NETL’s research and development efforts contribute to the following vital national goals: (1) Secure and reliable energy supplies; (2) Clean power production; (3) Climate change; (4) Hydrogen economy; etc.[vague].

Carbon Sequestration[edit]

Worldwide anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions have increased significantly in last two centuries to more than 33 billion tons today. Therefore, NETL is developing technologies to capture, purify, and store carbon dioxide in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without negatively affecting energy use or hampering economic growth of the world. NETL’s Carbon Sequestration research and development objectives are: (1) lowering the cost and energy penalty associated with carbon dioxide capture from large point sources and (2) improving the understanding of factors affecting carbon dioxide storage permanence, capacity, and safety in geologic formations and terrestrial ecosystems.

Hydrogen Fuel from Coal[edit]

The United States has approximately one quarter of all known coal of the world and also has more coal than any other fossil fuel resource[3] Therefore, NETL's goal is to develop advanced and novel energy technologies to produce, deliver, store, and utilize affordable hydrogen in an environmentally clean manner. This will help in reducing environmental concerns associated with energy use in transportation and stationary power applications through clean production of hydrogen from coal in tandem with carbon sequestration, and will ensure availability of hydrogen in sufficient volumes for fuel cell-powered vehicles expected to enter the transportation market sector in the future. NETL’s hydrogen from coal program supports the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, US DOE’s goals in the Hydrogen Posture Plan, and US DOE’s FutureGen project to produce electricity and clean fuels from coal with near-zero emissions.

Natural Gas and Oil Supply[edit]

Oil and natural gas account for the majority of the total energy consumed in the United States.[citation needed] However, recovery of these resources is continuously becoming challenging and expensive. Therefore, the focus of NETL is to develop innovative technologies to increase short-term as well as long-term oil and gas supplies through the efficient use of the United States’ existing resources. NETL’s short-term goals are to develop economically viable technologies for extracting as much as oil and gas from existing resources, and transferring this technology to the small and independent operators who are the backbone of the U.S. oil and gas industry.[citation needed] Long-term goals are to investigate potential new energy sources to sustain the United States’ oil and gas supplies. Recently, significant efforts have been made in understanding of methane hydrates and their potential as a future energy resource.


In 2010, NETL was part of a team to be awarded with Power Engineering magazine’s 2010 Coal-Fired Project of the Year. The project, “DryFining,” created a new technology for coal-firing power plants that improves fuel quality, decreases volatile gas emissions, and reduces a plant’s operating expenses and maintenance costs. The team was led by electric service provider Great River Energy of Maple Grove, Minnesota, and also included fluid bed dryer engineer Heyl & Patterson Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University’s Energy Research Center, the Electric Power Research Institute and engineering construction contractor WorleyParsons.[4]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Energy document "NETL History".

  1. ^ "About NETL". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Coal Resources in the United States.". Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  4. ^ "Power Engineering Names Projects of the Year". Power-Gen Worldwide. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 

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