Meet Dr. Brian Anderson – NETL’s New Director

Anderson has focused his work at WVU and DOE on advancing energy technologies. For his work in natural gas hydrates and CO2 sequestration, he received the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineers, and he received the Department of Energy Secretary Honor Award for his work in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Anderson said he sees the same opportunities for revolutionary changes in the coal industry that the natural gas industry has experienced over the past couple of decades.

“We are building on the technology breakthroughs made under our previous leadership. For example, revolutions in natural gas production that are traced directly to previous NETL technology development have presented the U.S. with additional opportunities that are complementary and additive to those in front of us with advanced, clean coal technologies,” Anderson said. “The future of the coal sector depends on the advancement of cutting-edge clean coal-related research, for technologies that will stimulate our economy, ensure our security and protect our health
– and this is also true for the global energy sector. The United States must maintain its global leadership in research and development in these critical technologies, and I believe that all starts with the work being done at NETL.”

Anderson said much of the recent effort has focused on a few important technologies, such as gasification, fuel cells and carbon capture, use and storage.

“I would like to add a few more examples of the cutting-edge coal-related technologies for which NETL continues to lead development,” he said. “These include our work in coal beneficiation including coal to high-value materials, rare-earth elements from coal and coal byproducts, advanced turbine research, materials for extreme environments, technologies for improving the existing fleet and technologies for the coal plants of the future.”

One thing Anderson hopes to do is to improve the commercialization of the technologies developed at NETL.

“Pathways to commercialization will always be a challenge, but for good reason. The gauntlet that a new technology must run leads us to the best outcome. Recall Thomas Edison who said, ‘I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work’,” Anderson said. “Also, recall that because of the inherent inertia built into our energy sector, it can easily take decades to see new technology in full deployment mode. It took more than 30 years for the NETL unconventional gas technologies to create the shale gas revolution we have seen. That said, identifying the most efficient ways for technologies created by NETL and its partners to enter the market is one of my highest priorities.”

“We are working on identifying the gaps existing in the energy ecosystem and to parse out where the rate-limiting steps have evolved,” he said. “I firmly believe that it is our role at NETL to ensure that a clear pathway exists from idea to market and to play a pivotal role in the energy innovation ecosystem. We will achieve this through regional and national partnerships across the government, industrial and academic sectors.”

Anderson urged the nation’s coal industry to work closely with NETL in developing those partnerships and pathways to the future.

“At NETL, we are continuously engaging our industry stakeholders to ensure that the technologies that we are pursuing will have a demand-side pull once matured,” he said. “I would ask the energy industry to continue to engage with us so that we may best align our resources and identify technology and market constraints.”