Wyoming launches natural gas, coal conversion studies

Projects are designed to determine feasibility
2012-07-28T19:00:00Z 2012-07-28T20:05:29Z Wyoming launches natural gas, coal conversion studiesBy JOAN BARRON Star-Tribune capital bureau Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE — Two state feasibility studies on natural gas and coal conversion technologies are under way, with a Sept. 1 deadline.

The Advanced Conversion Technologies Task Force selected the two proposals from among 14 applications.

The task force directs the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources in administering the state’s Clean Coal Technology Research Account.

The new studies are intended to help the office of Gov. Matt Mead and the Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee on Minerals, Business and Economic Development decide on awarding an additional $9 million for engineering and design of specific conversion projects, said Mark Northam, director of the School of Energy Resources.

Among other research programs, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 to fund the study of technologies to “move Wyoming minerals up the value chain,” according to Northam.

“Rather than just producing them and putting them in a pipeline or in a train, [the goal is] doing something that adds value to them. For instance, conversion of natural gas or coal to gasoline, diesel or petrochemicals or some other consumer product that has greater value than the commodity itself,” Northam said.

The two new studies include:

nWestern Research Institute, Laramie: $162,000 to study production of liquid fuels and chemicals from stranded natural gas. While previous studies have shown that gas-to-liquids facilities must be quite large to succeed commercially, recent technological breakthroughs have made it possible for such facilities to work on a smaller scale, the institute’s proposal said.

The institute said the technological breakthroughs provide an opportunity for Wyoming, where the ability to convert gas at the point of production in remote locations is especially important.

The goal of the study is to identify an optimum size for a gas-to-liquids facility for Wyoming natural gas resources. Development, demonstration and deployment of appropriately sized gas-to-liquids plants “would enable Wyoming gas producers to enter the multi-trillion-dollar market for fuels and chemicals,” institute’s proposal said.

nARCTECH Inc., based in Virginia: $329,243 to study coal conversion at biorefinery plants in Wyoming. ARCTECH has a process to convert coal to gas and other liquid fuels, along with products used in wastewater treatment. The company says the process can be used for coal that has been mined, as well as coal in deep, underground seams.

ARCTECH plans to conduct the study in collaboration with Arch Coal Inc., one of Wyoming’s biggest coal producers.

Meanwhile, the Advanced Conversion Technologies Task Force is preparing to issue a request for proposals in a separate program approved by the Legislature, subject to the governor’s approval, for front-end engineering and design on specific projects, the UW release said.

The task force is currently accepting proposals for research dedicated to coal conversion technologies. The Legislature appropriated $10 million for that purpose.

Funds for successful proposals in that program will become available Sept. 15, following selection by the task force and approval by the Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee, the release said.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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