By Matt Mead and Jay Faison
March 13, 2017 - Wyoming is proudly coal country. It is also a proud coal laboratory, developing advanced technologies for the nation and the world. As such, we are encouraged to hear Energy Secretary Rick Perry tout carbon capture technologies, following on President Trump’s pledge to help protect our nation’s vital coal industry. Mr. Perry has singled out projects like the state-of-the-art Petra Nova facility in Texas and construction of the world’s first methanol production facility to employ carbon capture technology in Louisiana, as thoughtful ways to advance innovation in the energy industry.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Perry, and states can position the United States as the leader in energy innovation using affordable and abundant coal reserves. We can save the coal industry — and improve the environment.
At the state level, Wyoming is leading the country, not just in coal production but also in the development of technologies to capture the carbon emissions produced by coal power.
The Integrated Test Center (ITC) being built at Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette will provide a world-class test hub for new technologies to capture and use the carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and other purposes. The ITC will host the coal half of the international NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a $20 million global competition. The goal is to develop breakthrough technologies. That includes converting carbon emissions into valuable products such as building materials, alternative fuels and other consumer products that we use every day.
Wyoming and its private partners have committed $21 million to construct and operate the ITC so far. There are two big reasons why — to pave a long-term path forward for coal by adding value through innovative carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies and to invest in technologies that can access untapped oil in Wyoming and other states.
For more than 40 years, the oil and gas industry has been using natural sources of carbon dioxide to boost oil recovery. Putting carbon emissions underground helps squeeze more oil out. This EOR has resulted in 2 billion barrels of U.S. oil production to date.
In Wyoming, CO2-EOR produces 6 million barrels a year, which in turn has generated $70 million in state tax revenue. Wyoming alone has the potential to produce 1.8 million barrels of oil, store 20 trillion cubic feet of CO2, and generate 6.7 jobs per million barrels of incremental oil production. Nationally, more than 200 billion barrels of oil could be recovered using this process.
Wyoming has decades of experience using carbon for recovering oil. The state has proven how carbon capture can work on a larger scale and show in the larger market potential for carbon dioxide from coal energy production. The University of Wyoming’s Carbon Management Institute just recently received $2.4 million in research and technology development funding from the Department of Energy to implement CCUS solutions.
We can create and control this CCUS technology. It can be sold along with our coal to other countries. The world will benefit from cleaner technology, inexpensive energy and a wise investment. Moreover, commercial utilization of carbon will provide coal producers and utilities the confidence needed for continued operation regardless of who leads EPA and Washington, D.C., in four or 40 years.
Wyoming is not alone. Texas is deploying two new projects this year, and North Dakota is planning for two more. There is economic potential in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and elsewhere in coal country.
The 240-megawatt Petra Nova coal plant in Texas will be one of the world’s biggest projects capturing carbon dioxide from coal power. It will apply those emissions in a nearby oil field to produce 75 million barrels of oil. This project, with a 10 percent rate of return, shows carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery can make money and at the same time meet environmental concerns.
Funding and support of CCUS research and technology development accelerate economic and environmental progress. Investment at the federal level can encourage and promote demonstration projects that result in solutions on a commercial scale.
Strong bipartisan alliances have been formed among federal and state lawmakers, energy companies and environmental advocates. A 14-state bipartisan coalition of governors — led by Wyoming and Montana — has endorsed a package of federal incentives to boost carbon-induced EOR and will soon be advocating the case for carbon dioxide pipelines be as an important part of the nation’s infrastructure overhaul.
Building a carbon asset industry, through research and investment, can be the 21st century’s equivalent to the Industrial Revolution.
Let’s do it.
Let’s ramp up the fossil fuel research and development programs. Support at all levels for EOR, carbon innovation and sensible federal incentives benefit everybody. Such investments can pay for themselves in billions of dollars of oil and other revenue, spur job creation, community stability, and energy security for America, and also help the environment. The future of coal relies on the deployment of carbon capture technologies.
Mr. Trump and Congress have a golden opportunity now to lead the effort. By doing so, they will create stable jobs, boost the domestic oil industry, find more uses for coal and develop broader energy infrastructure. America can be in the driver’s seat for the emerging global market for carbon capture technologies and that’s where we want to be.
Matt Mead is in his second term as a Republican governor of Wyoming. Jay Faison is CEO and founder of the ClearPath Foundation.