Wyoming needs to be all-in on carbon capture, officials say
If Wyoming’s coal industry is going to survive, the state and all of its counties need to be united and fully support carbon capture technology.
That was the message two men from Glenrock Petroleum had for Campbell County Commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday.
Glenrock Petroleum seeks to become the nation’s first carbon-negative upstream exploration and production company. It formed to develop oil fields that were bought in 2016. It became apparent that the fields would be conducive to CO2 floods, a process where carbon dioxide is injected into an oil field to increase the amount of oil extracted.
But those companies have to get carbon dioxide from somewhere. It turns out that coal-fired power plants are the best places for companies like Glenrock Petroleum to get carbon dioxide, said Steve Hughes.
Glenrock Petroleum has a technology that it wants to hook onto coal-fired power plants.
“We’d take the flue gas, and convert that to usable CO2 to be piped to our fields for sequestration,” Hughes said.
But Wyoming has to act quickly. There are a lot of power plants across the country that are scheduled to close, and the plan to decommission them has accelerated.
“We have to make significant progress in a short period of time,” said Commissioner Mark Christensen, otherwise there won’t be anything to connect the technology to.
“Regardless of our position on climate change, the markets have decided CO2 is an issue,” Christensen said. “If Wyoming wants to survive, it should lead the charge on addressing CO2 on a global scale.”
Lincoln and Sublette counties are feeling the effects of the impending closure of PacifiCorp’s Naughton Plant, which is scheduled to be retired in 2022.
It’s “the first under the gun,” Hughes said. And the people in those counties “have the feeling their voice is not being heard” because of their small population.
Wyoming’s total population is “not even a good-sized city on the West Coast,” said Steve Hughes, but it can still get its message out.
“Collectively, we have a voice,” Hughes said. “Folks that say ‘coal is dead’ will win if we don’t form a cohesive coalition across the state.
“We need your voices, your support,” he said.
“There’s no reason Wyoming should not be all in on this,” Christensen said. “Anything we can do to promote CCUS, I think, is in everybody’s best interest.”
While they’re not against renewable energy, Hughes said, the technology to provide reliable electricity with wind and solar is not there yet.
“We’re pushing this renewable train forward on the hope that we’re going to get grid-scale storage,” he said. “We could be 10 years away from a breakthrough, it could be 40 years.”
If nothing else, Christensen said, carbon capture can be the bridge technology until that breakthrough happens.
Jon Nicolaysen, strategy and field manager for Glenrock Petroleum, said that in places that rely on renewables for more than 30% of their electricity, the grid becomes unreliable. It can’t handle that big of a load.
Nicolaysen said Wyoming’s coal plants are an “irreplaceable source of cost-effective base load electricity.”
When it comes to electricity generation, there’s room in Wyoming for fossil fuels and renewables to share, Hughes said.
“We have sun, we have wind,” he said. “It’s time for Wyoming to take a greater stand on resources and control the destiny of our communities.”