A conservative advocate for clean energy turned his attention to Wyoming recently after being invited to tour the Cowboy State by Gov. Matt Mead.
Jay Faison, a former tech entrepreneur turned lobbyist, said Wyoming is well poised to face the challenges of global climate change from a conservative viewpoint by investing in research to develop carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery technologies.
Both ideas are alive and well in Wyoming.
Faison met with the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources, which has a division dedicated to enhanced oil recovery. He also toured Devon Energy’s Big Sand Draw enhanced oil recovery project near Riverton.
Faison intended to visit the site of the Wyoming Integrated Testing Center, which will house competitions on carbon capture research using the carbon dioxide from the coal-fired Dry Fork Power Station, but was delayed by weather.
“I invited Mr. Faison to discuss opportunities for the State of Wyoming to work with his foundation, ClearPath, on energy solutions to benefit Wyoming and the nation,” the governor said in an email. “Our conversation was very productive and generally centered around energy policy and technology investment. I look forward to working with Jay and ClearPath to advance low-carbon technologies.”
Mead has previously said he was skeptical of climate science, but believed that Wyoming needed to prepare for a market that was being affected by a move away from greenhouse gasses.
In doing so, Wyoming could get ahead of the curve on clean coal technologies, and extend the life of the large Powder River Basin coal industry.
It’s an approach that mirrors Faison’s conservative think tank, ClearPath Foundation, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We don’t agree with the environmental community that we are going to wind and solar our way out of this thing,” Faison said. “We’ve got to deal with fossil fuels, where we partner with utilities and coal companies. We don’t believe this problem is unsolvable.”
Carbon capture and sequestration is a growing field, and experts say the technology is sound. But attaching carbon capture to existing power plants is still too expensive to entice large-scale use by utilities.
The key is pairing carbon capture with enhanced oil recovery, where carbon dioxide is used to stimulate older fields, Faison said.
“The CO2 is worth money, that’s a commodity that people pay for to enhance depleted wells,” he said. “With that cash flow stream, now you are not necessarily in the too expensive category.”
But carbon dioxide needs a market, and companies need pipelines to transport the gas from carbon capture facilities to oil fields, he said.
To Faison’s delight, Wyoming is already developing pipeline corridors, preapproved paths for future carbon dioxide pipelines across the state.
ClearPath Foundation partners with coal companies that operate in Wyoming like Cloud Peak Energy, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy to lobby in Washington for accelerated development of carbon capture technologies. The foundation also lobbies for hydropower, nuclear power and energy research.
Faison said he would like to see the same degree of federal support for carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery that has been experienced by renewable energies.
Wyoming leaders in carbon capture development have often expressed the same sentiments.
“Mr. Faison and his team at ClearPath bring a conservative approach to advancing clean energy projects with a strong emphasis on spurring American innovation through smaller government and support of private sector solutions — something that really resonates here in Wyoming,” said Jason Begger, director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, in a statement.
Beggar has said that the current pro-energy climate in Washington doesn’t guarantee that challenges like the Clean Power Plan will go away.
Faison agrees. Regulations will kill industries like coal if an effort isn’t made now to bring technology up to speed.
“It’s doable. Our trip [to Wyoming] confirmed what we found in other places,” Faison said. “It’s just a matter of what level of resources we are going to put around it, or are we going to let regulation kill it, which it can.”