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New climate deal spurs hopes of more carbon storage projects

MEAD GRUVER,Associated Press

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Fred McLaughlin, director of the Center for Economic Geology Research at the University of Wyoming, stands near one of two wells drilled near the Dry Fork Station coal-fired power plant outside Gillette, Wyo., on June 14, 2022. McLaughlin and other researchers are studying whether formations as deep as 10,000 feet can be used to store the power plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.
1of11Fred McLaughlin, director of the guts for Economic Geology Research at the University of Wyoming, stands near 1 of 2 wells drilled close to the Dry Fork Station coal-fired power plant outside Gillette, Wyo., on June 14, 2022. McLaughlin along with other researchers are studying whether formations as deep as 10,000 feet may be used to store the energy plants skin tightening and emissions.Mead Gruver/AP

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) The rolling prairie lands of northeastern Wyoming have already been a paradise of lush, knee-deep grass for sheep, cattle and pronghorn antelope come early july.

But its another green greener energy that geologist Fred McLaughlin seeks as he drills nearly two miles (3.2 kilometers) in to the ground, far deeper compared to the thick coal seams that produce this the very best coal-mining region in the usa. McLaughlin and his University of Wyoming colleagues are studying whether tiny spaces in rock deep underground can permanently store vast volumes of greenhouse gas emitted by way of a coal-fired power plant.

This is actually the concept referred to as carbon storage, long touted being an response to global warming that preserves the power industry’s burning of fossil fuels to create electricity.

Up to now, removing skin tightening and from power plant smokestacks and pumping it underground was not feasible without higher power bills to cover the technique’s huge costs. But with a $2.5 billion infusion from Congress this past year and today bigger tax incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress on Friday, researchers and industry continue steadily to try.

One goal of McLaughlins project would be to preserve the lifespan of a comparatively new coal-fired power plant, Dry Fork Station, run by Basin ENERGY Cooperative. State officials hope it’ll do exactly the same for your beleaguered coal industry that still underpins Wyomings economy. Hawaii produces about 40% of the nations coal but declining production and some layoffs and bankruptcies have beset the Gillette areas vast, open-pit coal mines in the last decade.

As the economics of carbon storage remain uncertain at best, McLaughlin among others are confident in the technology.

The geology exists, McLaughlin said. This is a resource were searching for and the resource is pore space.


By pore space, McLaughlin doesnt mean skincare but microscopic spaces between grains of sandstone deep underground. Countless such spaces accumulate: Enough, he hopes, to carry 55 million tons (50 million metric tons) of skin tightening and over 30 years.

McLaughlin and his team used exactly the same drill rigs because the oil industry to bore their two wells almost 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), taking core samples from nine geological formations along the way. The researchers will study how injection at one well, using saltwater as a stand-in for liquid skin tightening and, could affect fluid behavior at another.

“It’s basically just like a call and response, if you need to think about it this way,” McLaughlin said. We are able to ground truth our simulations.

McLaughlin’s team also does plenty of lab focus on carbon sequestration back at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources in Laramie, studying on a microscopic scale just how much skin tightening and different sandstone layers can take. They model on computers just how much skin tightening and, well by well, could possibly be pumped underground north of Gillette.

Eventually they would like to advance to skin tightening and captured from the smoke plume at nearby Dry Fork Station, utilizing a technique produced by California-based Membrane Technology and Research, Inc.


Having an eye toward carbon storage, Wyoming in 2020 became among just two states, alongside North Dakota, to dominate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary authority to issue the type of permit McLaughlin and his team will have to pump large volumes of skin tightening and, pressurized right into a high density supercritical state, underground.

Aside from the permit, the geologists may also need more funding. The U.S. Department of Energy Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) program is funding 24 carbon capture and storage projects nationwide, which is among the furthest along.

Such projects were likely already qualified to receive a few of the roughly $2.5 billion in last year’s infrastructure bill. Now the brand new Inflation Reduction Act will raise the 45Q tax credit for electricity producers who sequester their carbon from $50 to $85 per ton.

Pumping skin tightening and underground is nothing new. For many years, the coal and oil industry has used skin tightening and, after it’s separated from the methane sold for fueling stoves and furnaces, to recharge aging oil fields.


Critics, however, explain the procedure is expensive to utilize at power plants and a lifeline of sorts to the coal, oil and gas industries once the world, within their view, should stop using fossil fuels altogether.

Up to now, only 1 commercially-operational, large-scale project in the U.S. has pumped skin tightening and from the power plant underground. But to defray costs, NRG Energys Petra Nova coal-fired power plant outside Houston sold its skin tightening and to improve local oil production.

After 3 years functioning, Petra Nova closed in 2020, when low oil prices made utilizing the gas to recharge a nearby oil field unprofitable.

In December, a U.S. Government Accountability Office review discovered that Petra Nova was the only person of eight carbon capture and storage projects at coal-fired plants to really get into operation, after getting $684 million in Department of Energy funding since 2009.

Some communities which have dealt for a long time with industrial polluting of the environment also worry that companies use promises of carbon storage in an effort to expand.

For Massachusetts Institute of Technology research engineer Howard Herzog, a carbon capture and storage pioneer, the question isn’t if the technique is technically feasible at scale. He’s sure that it really is. But whether it could be economically feasible is really a different matter.

Folks are starting to go on it more seriously despite the fact that fundamentally changing our energy systems isn’t a simple task, Herzog said. Its not at all something you do for a while. Youve surely got to really set the policy set up and we still havent really done that.

It could be expensive, said Herzog. But doing nothing with regards to climate, could be a lot more expensive.


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