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UW Energy Research Diversifies


July 17, 2008 — The University of Wyoming is launching research initiatives to enhance Wyoming's long-term position as a leading producer of energy .

In a report today (Thursday) to the UW Board of Trustees meeting in Sheridan, Vice President for Research and Economic Development Bill Gern outlined a series of initiatives being undertaken by several UW departments and programs, including the School of Energy Resources, Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, Western Research Institute, Wyoming Geological Survey, and the colleges of Engineering and Applied Science and Arts and Sciences, with funding by federal agencies and corporate sponsors. He said all of these initiatives are linked together as part of an integrated strategy to add to our knowledge of the science required to produce and use energy.   

The report noted that Wyoming for decades has been ranked as the nation's top coal producing state, producing coal that generates 30 percent of the nation's electricity. But with coming climate change legislation and more restrictive regulations, much more clean-coal research needs to be done. Gern discussed technologies that can capture and sequester carbon while generating power, and also outlined advantages of a variety of coal utilization technologies, including gasification.

For example a gasification process that converts coal into carbon monoxide and hydrogen results in synthesis gas that can be used as a fuel source or for chemical feed stocks. This is an extremely efficient method for extracting energy from organic materials. A chemical process method called Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis using synthesis gas from gasifiers can be used to produce diesel fuel, gasoline, methanol, ethanol, plastics and other products.

Another research-rich area is the Water Gas Shift Method used to produce hydrogen that can be used in electricity generation and for use as an automobile fuel.

Expertise in all of UW's energy initiatives is applicable in research and development in the other initiatives, Gern said. Among the ongoing initiatives to add value to Wyoming's energy resources are:

-- A proposed UW/General Electric Gasification Test Facility to be funded with Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation funds will provide first-hand knowledge to make Powder River Basin coal a more efficient resource for gasification processes, and also train UW students in the use of gasification technology.

-- Research is under way with the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory to better understand the geologic processes involved in carbon sequestration technologies for the deep Madison limestone and Nugget sandstone formations. Carbon dioxide resulting from gasification processes could be stored underground for future use in enhanced oil recovery processes and for other purposes.

 -- EnCana Oil & Gas USA funded an X-ray imaging laboratory to conduct experiments to help the oil and gas industries assess the potential success of given enhanced oil recovery processes.

Photo
Professor Mohammad Piri uses X-Ray imaging to help assess the potential success of enhanced oil recovery processes.

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