ADVANCED RESEARCH PROGRAMS

The principal aims of the DOE coal advanced research program are to pursue technology goals and exploratory research opportunities while maintaining a balance between revolutionary research and evolutionary engineering development programs. In conducting a strategic assessment of the DOE coal advanced research activities, the committee did not aim to provide a comprehensive list of research opportunities. However, some critical areas for coal-related research were identified during the committee's review of current programs. These include research on combustion and gasification, materials, and coal conversion and catalysis, as discussed in Chapter 9. In identifying these areas the committee accorded special importance to research areas unlikely to be addressed outside the FE coal R&D program. For example, the study of coal chemistry and catalytic reactions is not supported to a significant extent outside DOE's FE coal R&D program. The committee supports the DOE view, outlined in the recent FE advanced research strategic plan (DOE, 1994b), that advanced research activities within the coal program should be directed toward meeting the strategic objectives defined for advanced clean/efficient power systems and clean fuel systems. In line with the committee's earlier recommendation to modify coal RDD&C strategic planning horizons, the committee believes that the advanced research program should devote more effort to midand long-term requirements than is now the case.

The advanced research budget declined by about 30 percent in real terms between FY 1988 and FY 1994, with an additional decrease of approximately 25 percent proposed for FY 1995. Comparing the FY 1994 enacted appropriation and the FY 1995 budget request indicates that major reductions are proposed in coal liquefaction (84 percent), components (50 percent), and materials (25 percent). The reductions in funding for coal liquefaction, when combined with a proposed 36 percent reduction in funding for liquefaction programs outside the advanced research program, are of special concern, given the prospects for producing coal liquids in the mid to long- term.13

In Chapters 6 and 7 the committee identified ample opportunities for major contributions to fuels and power generation programs from advanced research. However, DOE's budget reductions for advanced research are not commensurate with the requirements for advancement of coal technology, notably the increasing needs for lower-cost, more efficient, and more environmentally acceptable use of coal.

Conclusions
  1. There are increased needs and opportunities for advanced research directly related to achieving cost reduction and improved performance goals for advanced power systems and fuels production.

13  

For a more detailed discussion of advanced research budgets, see Chapter 9.



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