Wyoming researchers are working to make coal cleaner
The public and private sectors are investing in finding ways to use fossil fuels long into the future.
The Cowboy State’s Powder River Basin is ground zero for these efforts.
This may just look like any other building. But it represents a new project to trap carbon and recycle it.
“If we can develop carbon capture types of technology that remove that from the atmosphere, then, hopefully, coal and oil and gas can be used long into the future,” said Jason Begger, the Executive Director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.
The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority’s Jason Begger helps oversee the program to find a way to reduce CO2 emissions. The state of Wyoming is joining private utility companies, pumping millions of dollars into the initiative.
“What we are really trying to do is change the narrative around carbon emissions…recognizing it for what it is which is an engineering challenge,” said Begger.
Researchers will be using a carbon capture machine for the very first test by the end of September. Researchers are hoping they can use carbon capture to liquefy carbon and use it in oil fields to access even more oil underground.
All this is taking place on the same property as the Dry Fork Power Station. Plant manager Tom Stalcup tells me it is one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the nation.
“Just a great example of doing things right,” said Stalcup.
“What goes up the chimney is pure nitrogen and water,” he explained.
“That’s in the environment so that’s a good thing.”
But the plant releases about as much CO2—a greenhouse gas—as other coal plants, according to local energy experts.
Stalcup said that they are constantly finding new ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
Connie Wilbert with the environmental advocacy group the Sierra Club says there is no such thing as clean coal.
Wilbert, the Director of the Wyoming chapter of the group is concerned about CO2 emissions still going into the atmosphere.
“Coal is not a clean fuel. It’s dirty, it’s full of toxins,” said Wilbert.
Wilbert supports new research into ways to make coal cleaner, but she says private companies should be the only one picking up the check, without any help from taxpayers.
“We think that it’s the responsibility primarily of industry to do that research,” said Gilbert.
Wilbert said, ultimately, she and other environmentalists want to see a shift away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.