The Integrated Test Center in Gillette hopes to attract more tenants to study carbon capture.
The ITC has hosted Carbon XPRIZE winner UCLA CarbonBuilt and and is now housing Membrane Technology and Research — which the Department of Energy just awarded $64 million in research funding. The center has also been working with Japanese-based companies such as Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which has developed a powder sorbent carbon capture technology, and the Japanese government’s Coal Energy Center (JCOAL), ITC Managing Director Jason Begger.
“I tell people all the time that if you really care about global climate emissions, you have to find a coal solution,” Begger said.
The center’s selling point: A functioning power plant, where researchers can test carbon capture technology under real world conditions, using coal flue gas. Begger proclaims it the only place in the world where you can do that.
Typically, if one is testing carbon capture technology, they’ll get nitrogen and various bottles of things to create a synthetic CO2 stream, he explained.
“It’s always going to be a little different pressure, density, different temperatures, those types of things,” he said. “The fact that we can provide the real stuff in large volumes is what makes it really unique.”
For a country like Japan, coal is its best option, Begger said. Solar and wind aren’t options due to the cloudy conditions and lack of wind. There’s a lack of natural gas, and nuclear isn’t an option after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
“It’s a lot easier for them to bring the technology to Gillette to test than it was to ship a bunch of coal to Japan, and modify a power plant to do so,” he said.
And while most of North America may be quickly shifting away from coal, some other countries have not. Begger hopes the ITC could be a real destination for carbon capture technology.
“You can’t just turn over the open side and flip the gates open and expect projects to show up,” he said. “The sight has to provide the right amenities, depending on the technology.”
The ITC has been linked to some major projects. The one with JCOAL and Kawasaki Heavy Industries land somewhere in the $16 million range later this year. CarbonBuilt was awarded $7.5 million for its work on using flue gas from power plants or cement factories into concrete mixtures, reducing the carbon footprint of cement by 50%. CarbonCure was also awarded $7.5 million in the Alberta, Canada, track of the contest for its work with concrete technology.
“I think if we have a couple of successful projects, that’s hopefully going to snowball, and we’ll have more eyes (on us). Begger said. “Look at what we got going on in Wyoming.”