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Ronald C. Surdam, who since 2004 has served as director of the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS), has been hired to head the University of Wyoming's new Carbon Management Institute (CMI).
Surdam will begin full-time duties July 1 at UW, where in 1966 he launched his professional career as an instructor of geology and worked 32 years in various roles before going to work for the state.
"My first tenure at the University of Wyoming was a positive experience and I'm excited about returning and helping to develop the Carbon Management Institute," says Surdam, who, for years, has led the effort to accomplish commercial geological carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration in the Rocky Mountain region. "We really need to protect the coal industry in Wyoming, and especially in the Powder River Basin, and help develop technologies for the next generation of coal-to-electrons, coal-to-liquids and syngas plants. I believe the Carbon Management Institute at UW has great potential to do both of those things."
The mission of the CMI, which is housed in UW's School of Energy Resources, is to expedite research and development of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Surdam says his work as Wyoming State Geologist will aid that mission. Over the past several years, he says, the WSGS has inventoried the state and determined which reservoirs and geological sites have the greatest potential.
To help ensure the future of the state's coal industry, Surdam says it's vital that the CMI accomplish its goal.
"One of the reasons that sequestration is so important to Wyoming is that we are rapidly approaching the point where either we get a congressional bill that would regulate CO2 or the Environmental Protection Agency will adopt rules to regulate CO2," he says. "If the regulations or legislation is similar to what they're talking about in Washington right now, then the people who generate power in the United States, many of whom use coal-fired power plants, will have only two choices. Those two choices are carbon capture and sequestration or fuel switching, in other words, switching to natural gas.
"What we're trying to do is make sure we're doing everything we can to make geological sequestration possible in the state of Wyoming. That way, when the next generation of coal-to-electrons, coal-to-liquids and syngas plants come on line, we'll have the ability to capture and sequester the CO2. That will greatly assist in maintaining a viable coal industry in Wyoming."
The Wyoming State Legislature's approval of $45 million in federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funds to UW will accelerate the CMI's progress into CCS research, Surdam says. The funding, in part, will allow the university to move some of the UW/WSGS numerically-simulated sequestration studies into actual demonstration.
"We can simulate the process. But until you actually inject the CO2, you don't know how much uncertainty there is relative to your numerical simulation," Surdam says. "The demonstration of CO2 injection at our highest-priority sequestration sites is the next step."
In addition to teaching geology during his first stint at UW, Surdam raised about $32 million in research support and held director positions for the Institute for Energy Research (1993-98) and the Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute (1997-99).
Posted on Monday, March 08, 2010