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Carbon capture research facility to 'give coal a viable future' says project backer

A "fancy RV park" for carbon capture pilotprojects will help extend the life of coal while reducing carbon emissions whenit comes online next fall, according to backers of the new research facility inWyoming.

"We do see technology as the pathway forward to givecoal a viable future," said Jason Begger, the executive director ofWyoming Infrastructure Authority, at a U.S. Department of Energy and CoalUtilization Research Council event in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29.

While much of the media attention surrounding carbon captureand sequestration, or CCS, has focused on the costs and logistical limitationsof projects in Saskatchewan and Alabama,Begger insisted that progress has been made. "We will get better at this,and it will get cheaper,"he said

The Integrated Test Center will offer access to up to 20 MWof coal-based flue gas capacity generated from the nearby Dry Fork Station.

Two of those megawatts are initially slated for use by thefinalists of XPRIZE, a research competition. Begger later told S&P GlobalMarket Intelligence that test bays are set aside with 0.4 MW of flue gasavailable for each of five finalists for the $20 million prize. Judges are reviewingsome 47 entries from around the world.

The rest of the 18-MW facility is open for other projects.The test center, which will consist of gravel pads and equipment modifiable toequip a variety of different projects, started construction earlier in 2016. It opened a call forapplications for tenant projects.

"A great analogy is it's a fancy RV park," Beggersaid, adding that you could bring your project in, park it into the flue gasconnection and operate it to see how it works.

Travis Deti, the interim executive director of the WyomingMining Association, said that, since coal will be in the U.S. energy mix forsome time, developing carbon capture technology is essential.

"The ITC is a greatopportunity to develop these technologies that would allow us to continue touse our most abundant, affordable and reliable energy resource. This is goodfor Wyoming and America," he said.

The state of Wyoming contributed $15 million to the project,while partners Tri-StateGeneration and Transmission Association Inc. and the contributed another $5 million and $1 million, respectively, Begger said.     

The pilot project forpilot projects

Wyoming ITC builds on the progress made by the NationalCarbon Capture Center, or NCCC, in Alabama — a facility similar in goals to theWyoming ITC but focused on more preliminary pilot projects of bench-scale testsof up to 0.5 MW and small pilot projects of up to 1.5 MW.

"The focus for the National Carbon Capture Center is tobe at the engineering scale level so that we can quickly transition technologyout of the laboratory up to the small pilot scale," Roxann Laird, directorof research and environmental affairs at the NCCC, said. She added that thefacility is funded for a five-year period ending in 2019 by a $150 milliongrant from the U.S. Department of Energy, with a 20% cost share from

The plant, which takes carbon from the nearby E.C. Gastonpower plant, includes other partners such as Cloud Peak Energy Inc.

While it has less capacity than the new Wyoming facility,the NCCC comes with support staff and equipment to help "accelerate thecommercialization of advanced technologies that allow cost effective carbontechnologies to be deployed," said Laird.

While problems have plagued the Kemper County, Miss. plant —one of the best-known projects, which saw initial pilot testing in the NCCC —Laird said studies that are coming through the facility are making significantprogress on advancing carbon capture.

"We believe we are definitely moving the needle to gettowards more cost effective options for carbon capture," she said.

Begger is quick to sing praises for the NCCC as well, sayingthat Laird has been a great advocate for the test center and that lessonslearned there have been invaluable to the newer operation.

"We really want to complementthe research they have done," Begger said.

He said that to slow down globalemissions, governments should focus more money on carbon capture technology. Headded that only $600 million have been invested in carbon capture technologiesfrom the federal government compared to the $4 billion injected intorenewables. "Their priorities don't necessarily align with where they areplacing their money."