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Fossil Energy

Field work

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a rich history of scientific research supporting the nation’s exploration, production, and use of domestic fossil energy resources. Current ORNL R&D activities span a range of Fossil Energy subprograms including advanced energy systems, carbon capture, carbon storage and utilization, and oil and gas technologies. ORNL scientists and engineers are using our world- class facilities and expertise to develop and characterize the performance of next generation advanced materials for harsh environment applications including boilers, gas turbines, solid oxide fuel cells and supercritical CO2 power cycles. Key ORNL core competencies in neutron science, high performance computing and our strengths in manufacturing are being used to develop process intensified carbon capture approaches, apply neutron imaging to improve understanding of coal gasification processes, and develop novel heat exchanger designs with improved heat transfer characteristics using additive manufacturing. Subsurface oriented ORNL R&D efforts focus on improving image reconstruction methods that identify subsurface structure and composition, utilizing novel tracers to monitor CO2 plume migration for carbon sequestration applications, and applying neutron imaging and scattering techniques to develop a more fundamental understanding of fluid transport and storage in geological media.

Focus Areas

Victoria DiStefano, University of Tennessee Bredesen Center graduate student researcher, and her adviser, Lawrence Anovitz of ORNL, study rock samples from the Eagle Ford Shale Formation in Texas. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

High-performance computing—The world’s fastest, most artificial intelligence–capable supercomputer, modeling power generation and the subsurface environment.

Neutron science—Two of the most powerful neutron science facilities in the world, providing a nondestructive, atom-level view of materials and processes.

Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences—Nanomaterials synthesis, nanofabrication, imaging, microscopy, and modeling for materials characterization.

Manufacturing Demonstration Facility—Development of new manufacturing technologies to reduce the cost of materials for carbon capture and storage, modular power generation, coal gasification, and coal-to-products innovations.

Extreme Environment Evaluation and Testing—ORNL’s large fleet of unique high-temperature corrosion, fatigue, and creep test equipment.


Chemical and Molecular Science, Engineering—Applying fundamental research to separations, sequestration, and power generation processes.

Model-Based Iterative Reconstruction—Novel algorithms to enhance subsurface imaging and modeling for improved reservoir characterization, better drilling and well completion techniques, and advancements in carbon storage.