Carbon

Jason Begger, the director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, talks about the Integrated Testing Center at the Dry Fork coal-fired power plant Sept. 21 outside of Gillette.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

Federal support for ongoing academic research into reducing emissions is “imperative,” a University of Wyoming academic told the U.S. Senate recently.

Kipp Coddington, director of the Carbon Management Institute at UW’s School of Energy Resources, made the comments recently while plugging his school’s work on using carbon dioxide to stimulate oil fields and capturing the gas emitted from burning fossil fuels, namely coal. UW is also involved in developing new uses for coal that don’t involve burning it for electricity, he said.

“All of the projects and research areas noted in my testimony are important so that the United States remains a leader in using its abundant energy resources with reduced impacts to air quality,” he told members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee.

Wyoming is ideally placed to expand research in these areas, but also to benefit from them, according to Coddington, who noted the state’s outsized contribution to coal production in the U.S. More than 30 states get their coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

The Cowboy State’s low sulfur, cheap to dig coal, accounted for more than 90 percent of coal for 10 states.

As a user of coal for electricity, Wyoming is on the high end. About 88 percent of the state’s electricity comes from burning coal, about 11 percent from renewables like wind, Coddington said, quoting Energy Information Administration data from 2015.

As such, Wyoming has taken a leading role in a number of ways to address emissions concerns. Coddington noted projects that most in Wyoming are familiar with including the Integrated Test Center in Gillette, attached to Basin Electric Coop’s Dry Fork Station, that allows for industry-scale testing of new technologies that harness carbon dioxide. Wyoming has a network of carbon dioxide pipelines as well that carry the gas from power plants to older oil fields, where they can be pumped into wells to maximize the amount of oil recovered, he said.

Some of the specific activities going on at the university may be less familiar to Wyoming readers, such as a Department of Energy project on carbon capture research collaboration with China, but each serves a similar aim: using technology to either expand the ways Wyoming’s key industries can be used, or clean up the way its fossil fuels are utilized currently.

“UW is doing its best to advance the frontiers of these research areas,” Coddington said. “The ongoing federal role in supporting these research endeavors is imperative.”

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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