Wyoming governor proposes CO2 disposal research initiative

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who presides over the largest coal-producing state in the U.S., said Jan. 23 that he is proposing that Wyoming and private partners invest in a world-class research center to develop and test new uses for carbon captured from coal-based power plants.

The goal is to develop new markets for carbon in addition to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), Mead noted. As carbon capture technology advances across the country there will be more CO2 produced than can be used for the EOR process. Wyoming coal, mostly out of the Powder River Basin, is sent to 34 states and not all of them have enhanced oil project opportunities available.

“Wyoming and many private companies have invested significantly in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) research. I want to advance the conversation to look at what happens when CCS technology is commercially viable and to try to add value to CO2, which has significant potential as a resource,” Mead said. “I am asking the Legislature to look closely at the idea of Wyoming joining with utilities, power plants and other private companies to build a test center – essentially setting up a laboratory for a select group of scientists to experiment with uses of carbon.”

Mead is proposing that his state set aside $15m to cover some capital costs for the center and for University of Wyoming research to take place there. In Wyoming there is a lot of demand for CO2 to be used in enhanced oil recovery, the governor noted.

“Wyoming has an opportunity to make strides in establishing new beneficial uses of CO2,” Mead said. “I believe this would be best suited to occur in a location that incorporates real world conditions – namely, the heart of coal country.”

Wyoming is home to the largest coal mines in the United States and provides 40% of the nation’s coal. Coal in turn provides 37% of America’s electricity. There are several unnamed private companies that would be involved with this project and they would work with the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources.

Mead said he recognizes that this plan is still in its early stages. As a result, he is proposing to set aside the $15m and it would not be spent until an implementation plan has been reviewed by the Legislature and approved by the Advanced Conversion Technology Task Force and the governor.

“There are many details that need to be worked out on this proposal, but I want Wyoming to maintain a position of leadership when it comes to carbon research,” Mead said. “This is a bold project, but it could position Wyoming and the country well to ensure we have a diverse energy portfolio for generations to come.”

The state of Wyoming has been in talks with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Assn., a not-for-profit wholesale power supplier headquartered in Colorado and supplying power to Wyoming electric cooperatives, about Tri-State’s pursuit of an inducement prize for research on this issue. The test center could be used by Wyoming researchers and competitors seeking the prize.

The nation’s largest coal mines are in Wyoming, including Peabody Energy’s (NYSE: BTU) North Antelope Rochelle and Arch Coal’s (NYSE: ACI) Black Thunder mining operations. Other major coal producers in Wyoming include Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) and Cloud Peak Energy (NYSE: CLD).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.