Wyoming Is at Forefront of Carbon Recovery Technology

Wyoming Is at Forefront of Carbon Recovery Technology
AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File

This week, Wyoming will become the focal point of carbon recovery research with the dedication of the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC).

The ITC is the largest facility of its kind in North America and one of only a handful in the world that is fully integrated into a working coal plant. It features six demonstration sites, each of which will be provided with flue gas, power, and service water from the Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station.

Despite recent declines in its use, coal remains a vital and abundant energy resource that makes up 30 percent of all U.S. electricity production. According to the Department of Energy, the United States has far more energy potential from coal than the rest of the world has from oil — sufficient recoverable coal reserves to last nearly 350 years based on 2016 production. Fully 40 percent of current U.S. production is located in the Equality State.

These reserves represent enormous value to an energy-hungry world. But we also must work to find solutions CO2 emissions. The goal must be to discover and develop sufficiently efficient and cost-effective methodologies to achieve the critical, but up to now, technologically elusive challenge of maintaining coal as a viable, competitive source of energy.

Wyoming is convinced that one key to achieving that goal is to provide a platform that brings together the most innovative ideas from around the world to demonstrate beneficial and economically feasible uses for CO2 emitted from power plants.

This conviction has led to our state’s $15 million investment in the ITC, a large-scale testing space at the site of an operating coal power plant near Gillette. An additional $6 million has been committed by private-sector partners, including the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association. The cutting-edge facility aims to tear down a major obstacle to carbon conversion research to date: the lack of sites to test laboratory findings at scale — and under real-world conditions — and prove the feasibility of a technology to potential investors.

The ITC’s first tenant is the XPRIZE Foundation. The five finalists for the coal track of the $20 million NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE will compete to develop breakthrough technologies that convert CO2 emissions into marketable products.

Teams converging on Wyoming hail from India, China, Scotland, Canada and the United States. They will work to transform CO2 into materials including methanol, plastics, carbonates used in building materials, and stronger, “greener” concrete. The five finalist teams will be scored on how much CO2 they convert and the net value of their products.

Last month, Japan Coal Energy Center and Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced plans to become the second tenant at the ITC. The groundwork is being laid to test Kawasaki’s solid sorbent carbon capture technology, which involves the use of porous materials to absorb CO2 from plant emissions.

With the ITC, Wyoming stands as a leader in developing the next advanced coal technologies and we look forward to real-world demonstrations of innovative carbon capture and conversion technologies that will take place at the facility.

The ITC will be formally dedicated today, May 16th and we here in Wyoming couldn’t be prouder.

Matthew Mead is the Governor of Wyoming.

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