Wyoming invests in carbon research center in ‘moon shot’ bid to save coal

Wyoming invests in carbon research center in ‘moon shot’ bid to save coal

By on Apr 29, 2016 in In the News |

Dive Brief:

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) and other state and utility officials this week broke ground on a new carbon research center that will study capturing carbon emissions from coal facilities and turn them into a product which can be sold.

The Casper Star Tribune reports the $21 million center will be built next to Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station. The center will host a $10 million competition to the team of scientists who can capture the most carbon and create the most value.

Wyoming will contribute $15 million of the overall pricetag, in what is seen as a last-ditch effort to save coal generation.


Dive Insight:

What do Nebraska and Alaska have in common? Like a trivia question that draws wild guesses, few would think these are the only two states in almost a decade to not see coal use decline in the power sector. The U.S. Energy Information Administration noted yesterday that since 2007, coal burn in the power sector has declined in virtually every state, rising only in Nebraska and Alaska.

But that widespread drop in coal generation is fueling Wyoming’s interest in efforts to save the industry.

“The Integrated Test Center is a shining example of how America’s electric cooperatives are pushing the boundaries of innovation,” Jim Spiers, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association vice president of business and technology strategies, said in a statement. “From distributed generation and renewable energy to cyber security and carbon capture, co-ops are collaborating with public and private interests to meet the needs of their member-consumers and increase economic prosperity in their communities.”

NRECA contributed $1 million to the project.

The facility would be located in Gillette, Wyo., the site where most of the state’s coal mining occurs, and is expected to be completed next year. The Casper Star Tribune said officials at the groundbreaking described the center as a “moon shot” attempt to revitalize the coal sector.

The Wyoming Integrated Test Center will allow researchers to test the capture, utilization and sequestration of carbon, using flue gas from the 422-MW Dry Fork Station. Also a part of the project are Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. Tri-State contributed $5 million to the ITC.

“With our partners, we’ve worked tirelessly to spur a new path for entrepreneurship and innovation in carbon management,” said Mike McInnes, Tri-State’s CEO.

The facility will be used as the final phase of XPRIZE’s $10 million carbon competition. It will award prize money “to the developer of the most successful new technology for transforming coal based flue gas into a commercial product,” according to NRECA’s statement. Transforming carbon dioxide emissions into revenue-producing products could offset the high cost of carbon removal, the group said.

The XPRIZE competition will conclude in 2020.

The decline of coal has been precipitous in recent years. EIA said this week that consumption of steam coal used for  generation fell 29% from its peak of 1,045 million short tons in 2007 to an estimated 739 MMst in 2015.

“Consumption fell in nearly every state, rising only in Nebraska and Alaska over that period,” EIA said. “States with the largest declines were concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast, with six states in these regions accounting for nearly half of the national decline. Smaller declines in power sector coal consumption occurred in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana, all in the Rocky Mountain region.”


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