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ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. — There's a lot of coal in Wyoming's history. UW researchers are working to ensure there will be a lot of coal in its future as well.

Coal is huge to the state's economy and is helping to meet a lot of the nation's energy needs.

The state receives about $1.2 billion in revenues from the coal mining industry each year.

Wyoming's fossil fuel-based industries account for more than 10 percent of the nation's energy demand, predominantly through the extraction and export of coal, natural gas and oil.

But the country is in the midst of a transition to a lower-carbon economy as federal officials look for ways to reduce the release of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to begin regulating greenhouse gases including the CO2 produced by coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act in January. The agency has set a 2050 target date for an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

State officials expect geologic carbon sequestration to play an important role in “bridging” that transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy technologies.

Carbon capture and sequestration systems aim to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by coal-fueled power plants. The process extracts carbon dioxide and stores it underground in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, or saline aquifers.

State officials have determined that southwest Wyoming has a promising geologic capacity for the permanent sequestration of CO2.

But there is no carbon sequestration industry in Wyoming yet.

Two years ago, Wyoming lawmakers allocated $45 million in federal Abandoned Mine Land grant funds for carbon capture and storage research, placing the state on the forefront of national carbon sequestration efforts.

The state is working to develop the legal and regulatory framework for geologic carbon sequestration in Wyoming.

At the same time, University of Wyoming scientists are pioneering the research needed to determine the best approach for capturing and permanently storing gases that contribute to global climate change, and how such an industry might work in Wyoming.

The Carbon Management Institute — a part of the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources — is managing the first phase of the Carbon Underground Storage Project.

The effort includes researchers, administrators and staff from UW, the Wyoming State Geological Survey and industry partners such as Baker Hughes, Geokinectics, Emtek and Exxon Mobil.

CMI director Ron Surdam is the principal investigator for the $16.9 million, three-year project.

Over the next decade, the CMI will function as the project manager in the Rock Springs Uplift study.

The institute will also partner with a coalition of universities, national labs, state geological surveys, and non-governmental organizations to advance clean coal technologies and carbon sequestration in China.