The global economy has just experienced a period of unique transformation because of COVID-19. The fact that remains constant in this new economic landscape is that our society relies on energy; it’s an integral part of our day-to-day lives. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 80 percent of energy consumption in the United States comes from fossil fuels, so having access to a secure and reliable supply of those energy resources is more important than ever. Below are three examples that highlight how our work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) helps ensure the Nation’s energy security and resiliency.
(1) Open crude oil reserves to respond to crises
FE has overall program responsibility for carrying out the mission of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil. These federally-owned stocks are stored in massive underground salt caverns along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico. The SPR is a powerful tool U.S. leaders use to respond to a wide range of crises involving crude oil disruption or demand loss. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the oil markets crashed and crude oil demand dropped drastically across the world. U.S. oil producers turned to the SPR to store their oil. This helped alleviate the pressure on producers to shut in oil production and proved to be a critical asset for American energy and national security.
(2) Use the Nation’s abundant coal reserves to produce valuable materials
Critical materials, including rare earth elements, are a group of chemical elements and materials with unique properties that support manufacturing of most modern technologies. They are essential components for critical defense and homeland security applications, green energy technologies, hybrid and electric vehicles, and high-value electronics. While these materials are not rare, they are hard to separate and expensive to extract. The United States relies heavily on imports from China. To reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources, FE has a research and development program aimed at producing a domestic supply of critical materials from the Nation’s abundant coal resources and associated byproducts from legacy and current mining operations. Many of the technologies being developed can also be used to separate critical minerals from other mining materials and byproducts. Tapping into these resources has the potential to create new industries and revitalize the workforce in coal-producing regions.
(3) Decrease carbon emissions for a cleaner energy future
FE is committed to balancing the Nation’s energy use with the need to protect the environment, and has a comprehensive portfolio of technological solutions that help keep carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions out of the atmosphere. For example, the Department has been investing in carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies for over a decade. These technologies capture CO2 emissions from various sources, including coal-fired power plants and manufacturing plants, before they enter the atmosphere. Several of these cutting-edge technologies have been deployed at major demonstration sites. Three of these projects—Petra Nova, Archer Daniels Midland, and Air Products & Chemicals—have captured and injected over 10.8 million metric tons of CO2. The success of these projects is paving the way toward a cleaner and more sustainable American energy future.
These examples are just a few of the ways FE supports the Department-wide mission of ensuring the Nation’s energy security and resiliency through the deployment of transformative science and technology advancements. Learn more about this mission-critical work by visiting fossil.energy.gov.