Montana governor meets with DOE, company officials on carbon capture issues

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Aug. 31 that he continues to work to support the workers and community of Colstrip, site to a major coal-fired power plant and attendant coal mine.

Bullock hosted U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officials as they provided the preliminary findings of their analysis on Carbon Capture and Enhanced Oil Recovery options for Colstrip Unit 3. Joining the governor were several CEOs from the energy and coal industry who are interested in learning more about the technology and its applicability to generation units in Colstrip.

Earlier this year, Bullock released his Energy Blueprint for Montana which recognized that Montana will need both carbon-based and renewable sources of energy in the coming decades. It prepares Montana for an energy future in a world economy that’s unpredictable and changing.

“We will leave no stone unturned as we continue to find ways to support the workers and community of Colstrip,” said Bullock. “Today’s meeting provided our state a look into new technology that could keep hard working Montanans in control of our own energy future.”

Senator Duane Ankey and Colstrip Mayor joined CEOs and company representatives from NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, Cloud Peak Energy, Westmoreland Coal, Puget Sound Energy, Talen Montana, Southeastern Montana Development, Portland General Electric and Avista at the meeting.

The DOE also released a white paper that makes it clear that the use of coal will be a major part of global energy consumption for decades to come, and without further commitment to carbon capture research and policy support, the world will not meet its climate change goals, said the governor. Additionally, DOE presented information on its loan programs highlighting the available resources for projects employing these technologies.

The  Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club said July 12 that they had reached a historic agreement with Puget Sound Energy and  Talen Montana parent Talen Energy to retire by July 2022 the oldest coal-burning units at the Colstrip coal plant. Units 1 and 2 – which were built in the 1970s – have faced serious problems remaining competitive as energy markets shift dramatically, the environmental groups said. Meanwhile, regulators in Washington and Oregon, which are the homes of the main customers for Colstrip’s electricity, have sent clear signals that they no longer want coal-generated power and prefer more clean energy. Under the agreement, which was filed with the U..S. District Court for the District of Montana, Talen and Seattle-based PSE have until July 2022 to retire the two units.

The Colstrip plant has four coal-fired units capable of producing up to 2,094 MW. Units 1 and 2 began commercial operation in 1975 and 1976, and units 3 and 4 started in 1984 and 1986. Units 1 and 2 each have about 307 MW of capacity. Units 3 and 4 each have about 740 MW of capacity. The plant employs about 360 people and is owned by Talen Energy, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Avista Corp., PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy. The plant is supplied with minemouth coal produced at strip operations run by Westmoreland Coal.

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.