Wyoming is the nation’s top coal-producing state. According to the US Energy Information Administration’s 2016 statistics, it provides 40% of all coal mined in the US. And the state’s Republican governor is on a mission to limit carbon emissions, a plan that makes many in coal country uncomfortable.
Governor Matt Mead (R) believes that carbon research could benefit the state by creating a research economy while also helping to address the concerns of the coal industry’s future customers.
Therefore, Mead proposed a $15 million investment in a test facility at a coal plant where research teams can investigate strategies for capturing carbon dioxide emissions and turning them into products like cement. His proposal was subsequently approved, and the state recently broke ground on the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC) at the Dry Fork Station. The research team with the best plan to utilize the coal plant’s carbon emissions will receive $10 million from the XPRIZE Foundation.
“Utilizing coal plant emissions will not only reduce the liability of future carbon regulation, but also spur new research,” Jim Spiers, senior vice president of business and technology strategies at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), told Scientific American.
While controversial, the test facility represents efforts to support the coal industry by promoting solutions to carbon emissions and ensuring future markets. And many feel that this resource recovery concept could be especially impactful for the country’s rural electric cooperatives since power generation at many electric utilities is predominantly coal-fired.
A budget bill signed into law by President Trump in February 2018 provides incentives for capturing and storing carbon emissions. Specifically, the measure provides a tax credit of $50 for every metric ton of carbon dioxide buried underground and $35 for every ton put to work in other ways. Energy researchers indicate that this tax credit may tip the scales for a technology that’s long proved too expensive.
“I think we’ll see dozens of [carbon-capture] projects appear in the next couple of years that could not have happened otherwise,” Julio Friedmann of the Energy Futures Initiative told the MIT Tech Review.
What are your impressions? Could the capture and utilization of coal’s carbon emissions change the economic model for power generation?