When completed, Wyoming’s $15-million Integrated Testing Center – a cutting-edge carbon capture research facility that broke ground nearly a year ago at the Dry Fork Power Station at Gillette – will be the largest pilot-scale research operation of its type nationwide and one of the largest worldwide, according to state officials, the Casper Star Tribune reported on March 27.
The coal-powered, 385-MW Dry Fork station is owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative (92.9 percent) and the Wyoming Municipal Power Agency (7.1 percent). Now, its emissions will be used to find new ways to sequester carbon – and concurrently, to use that carbon to develop new products and businesses.
“A couple years ago. the governor [Matt Mead (R)] said, ‘I’m not going to debate climate science anymore. If society is demanding lower carbon solutions, then that is what we need to provide,’’’ Jason Begger, director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, told members of the Casper business community on March 27, according to the local news outlet. “Those debates will continue to happen, but we’re moving the ball forward.”
Speaking to members of the Rotary Club of Casper, Begger noted that Wyoming’s interest in developing carbon capture is simple: The state has relied heavily on its coal industry and would like to continue to do so.
Indeed, he said, coal contributes $1 billion in tax revenue each year. But coal is under pressure from record low natural gas prices and increased investment in renewable technology – and Wyoming is not ready to walk away.
“Why are we bothering with an investment in coal like this?” Begger asked. The answer, he explained, is that coal is cheap and easily quantifiable to meet demand for electricity from homes, businesses and industry – and it still provides a little more than one-third of the electricity for the nation.
Carbon capture can further increase the value of coal, he said, according to the report by the Casper Star Tribune – sequestering the gas released from power plant flues and using that “to create viable products and emerging businesses for those products here in Wyoming.”
The testing center at Gillette will capture about 5 percent of the exhaust from the Dry Fork Coal-fired power plant and carrying it by pipeline to the research bays. There, scientists can conduct their experiments in five small bays or one large research bay.
The first tenant of the facilities will be the XPRIZE Foundation, which is holding a contest for the best natural gas and coal technology to capture carbon. The research competitors are in the second phase of the contest and will be able to use the testing center when construction is completed later this year.