Energy Central News

Curated power industry news from thousands of top sources.


First major carbon capture projects break ground at Wyoming test site

  • May 5, 2023

The carbon capture testing ground built at a Wyoming coal plant in 2018 is positioned, at last, to launch a pair of promising technologies from the lab to the market.

During a Tuesday afternoon ceremony attended by some of the highest-profile figures in the state's energy sector and several Japanese diplomats, California-based gas separation developer Membrane Technology and Research and Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries each broke ground on their respective carbon capture test sites at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC).

Many of Wyoming's leaders believe carbon capture will be the key to preserving the struggling coal industry, which is being squeezed out of the electricity market by lower-emitting and increasingly affordable alternatives.

The ITC doesn't look like much. It's an expanse of red dirt, more closely resembling a fenced-in parking lot than a world-class innovation hub. But the facility — which began to take shape almost a decade ago under then-Gov. Matt Mead — is one of a handful of places in the world where researchers can test projects that have worked well in the lab but aren't yet mature enough to install on a power plant.

"There is a vision here, which has been consistent, and that vision tells us that if we're going to do something about powering our world consistently, reliably and dispatchably, 24/7, we're going to have to do that by looking at all of our energy sources — none more important than coal," Gov. Mark Gordon said during the event.

"And if we're going to do something about climate," he added, "we have to do that with innovation. Regulation won't get us there. We'll have to innovate our way forward."

Nobody expected five years to pass between the ITC's opening and the arrival of its first major tenants. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that followed derailed things for a while. (The facility did host one smaller project starting in 2019 and the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition during the pandemic.)

Membrane Technology and Research and Kawasaki Heavy Industries each committed years ago to setting up shop at the ITC.

"It's been a long time coming," said Jason Begger, director of the ITC, in an interview with the Star-Tribune. "To get to this day is really quite an achievement," he added, "and Wyoming can be proud, because there's nobody else doing projects of this size in carbon capture."

Both companies will spend the coming months building and then testing their novel approaches to filtering out carbon dioxide. They will use flue gas from Gillette's Dry Fork Station, one of the youngest and most advanced coal plants in the country, which towers over the Integrated Test Center.

Membrane Technology and Research will use specially designed membranes to extract the carbon dioxide from the rest of the flue gas. The company has been testing the technology at various scales since 2018, said Brice Freeman, the company's carbon capture product manager.

Its ITC project has an estimated price tag of $67 million — most of which will come from a U.S. Department of Energy grant — and is expected to stay in operation, gathering data on its efficacy and efficiency, until 2026.

According to the company, plenty of interested customers are already waiting on those results.

"This is the last, largest and final stage of pre-commercial production," Freeman said.

The company also plans to partner with the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources to study injecting captured carbon dioxide into the nearby CarbonSAFE storage project, with the ultimate goal of sequestering carbon captured from Dry Fork Station at a commercial scale.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, meanwhile, will test a new variation of the carbon-capture-absorbing compounds typically used to capture carbon. Most technologies that have achieved some level of commercialization rely on liquids that are heated to absorb carbon dioxide and then cooled to release it — an energy-intensive process. But the company has developed a powder it hopes will do the same thing but require less energy.

It has a budget of roughly $10 million for its first year onsite, but could see the timeline (and budget) extended by the Japanese government.

Evaluating the project's actual environmental impacts will be a priority during that time, said Katsuki Yasuhara, Kawasaki Heavy Industries' power plant engineering group manager.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the electricity provider that owns Dry Fork Station, hasn't committed to installing carbon capture at either of its Wyoming coal plants.

If carbon capture can be proven effective and affordable at a commercial scale, said Chris Baumgartner, a senior vice president at Basin Electric, "our hope would be that Dry Fork Station absolutely would be able to utilize this technology to continue to serve membership."

The companies now setting up in its shadow could do just that.


No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »