CHEYENNE — Satisfied with his first foreign trade mission, Gov. Matt Mead is ready for more.
While his first weeklong mission in June was relatively nearby — Canada — the second one will be more distant — Taiwan and South Korea.
Planning may start this fall.
The two Asian countries offer rich prospects for Wyoming’s energy, agricultural resources and tourist industries.
Because of recent changes in visa laws, Taiwan is promising as a source of visitors to expand tourism in Wyoming, Mead said last week.
The governor, a Republican more than halfway through his first term as chief executive, said foreign trade was on his list of tasks at which he needed to do a better job.
The Legislature helped by allocating $250,000 for foreign trade programs.
Mead said he will consider a move to set up an office of international trade but will need to look at costs.
The governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, said a similar office in his state resulted in greatly expanded international exports.
Mead expects to get better at setting up these trips and learning the protocol involved in dealing with dignitaries from other countries.
Canada, the largest U.S. trade partner, was the logical place to start. The destination spots were Vancouver in British Columbia and Alberta provinces in Canada.
The Wyoming companies on the Alberta leg of the trip were High Country Fabrication from Casper and Trihydro Corp. and Western Research Institute, both from Laramie.
Shawn Reese, policy director in Mead’s office, said the purpose of the Vancouver stop was to see a coal export terminal in action and learn about the issues, including land issues, associated with expansion of a coal port.
The port, called Westshore, is a man-made island near the border between Canada and the U.S.
The island has a shipping capacity of 33 million tons of coal, which has been reached, Reese said last week in an interview.
The owners have invested millions of dollars in dust suppression. They now are looking at reconfiguring the island to make room for more coal, a $1 billion venture.
Only a small percentage of the coal is from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Eighty percent of it is shipped to Asia.
The visitors also had a chance to visit a company that manufactures liquid natural gas engines for heavy-duty vehicles.
The operation tied in with the governor’s strategy to expand use of compressed natural gas and also to integrate liquid natural gas for heavy equipment used in trona mines and by the railroads, Reese said.
Then on to Edmonton, located north of Calgary in Alberta province, a city of about 600,000 people.
On the outskirts of the city is a large-scale industrial area encompassing 60 square miles called the “Canadian Heartland.”
It is the largest hydrocarbon processing facility in Canada.
“It is an incredible conglomeration of different companies trying to add value to Canadian crude,” Reese said.
Ben Schrader, engineering manager of High County Fabrication, said he was most impressed with the planning for adding value to oil and natural gas.
“They clearly have a plan for keeping as much of that value in the province for providing opportunities for their people. That was great,” Schrader said Thursday.
That same studied approach may be possible in trying to find ways to keep some of the value of Wyoming’s energy resources in the state, he said.
Schrader’s company is a custom manufacturer of pressure vessels, reactors, scrubbers, shell and tube heat exchangers and other process equipment used primarily in large capital projects.
“We used the opportunity to do a little marketing of our business as well,” he said.
His company relies heavily on the large Canadian projects, he said, and in the past five years, the Alberta market has driven 40 percent of its business.
Moving on, the trade missionaries traveled north to Fort McMurray near the Canadian oil sands.
Don Collins is chief executive officer of Western Research Institute in Laramie, which is working on a demonstration project with a Canadian company, MEG Energy.
The project is to develop a process to extract oil sands with a smaller carbon footprint that doesn’t require adding thinners, or distillates, to the sands.
Collins said he talked to some of the Alberta ministers about an intern program between the University of Wyoming and the institutes of technology in Alberta to support the demonstration project and to help with workforce development.
The first goal is to train 50 interns in coordination with the UW College of Engineering.
He said WRI, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on energy technologies primarily in asphalt and heavy oil, has been working with MEG Energy for about a decade.
The Canada oil sands, meanwhile, are found in an incredibly dense forest with scattered bogs and rivers, Reese said.
The visitors saw two types of oil sands production: open pit mining and in-situ extraction.
The open pit mining operation is huge, he said, and looks like a combination of a Wyoming coal mine with a power plant and a refinery all on one site.
The in-situ operation involves placing two pipes underground in two layers. Steam is pumped through the upper pipe and the oil is sucked out of the lower pipe.
The rate of production is lower than that produced by mining.
“But the footprint is incredibly smaller because the they’re extracting the oil and not the sands,” Reese said.