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Published March 27, 2023
A feasibility study led by energy infrastructure company Williams -- in conjunction with the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources (SER) -- is advancing with the help of a UW undergraduate student.
In 2021, Williams received a nearly $1 million grant from the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) to complete a feasibility study to evaluate water access, compatibility and asset integrity in support of green or blue hydrogen. Additionally, Williams pledged $500,000 over five years to support a new center at SER dedicated to applied hydrogen research and to grow a hydrogen industry in Wyoming.
As part of the study, UW student Jacob Schneider, of Cincinnati, Ohio, created a modeling story map to help Williams identify the best site for the possible location of a hydrogen electrolysis plant.
Working as a research assistant in SER’s Center for Economic Geology Research (CEGR), Schneider performed a geospatial analysis to identify areas containing all of the necessary infrastructure and resources near Wamsutter and Opal ideally suited for a plant.
By combining multiple modeling software tools with publicly accessible geologic data and property ownership maps, he was able to illustrate a location that satisfies the needs of the project, including access to water, availability to wind power and proximity to existing energy infrastructure, such as oil and gas wells, pipelines and transmission lines.
“This project really highlighted how critical and difficult project siting can be,” Schneider says. “There are so many variables that need to be taken into consideration to make a project like this feasible in terms of economics. I worked to bring in as many cost-controlling factors as I could in order to give an accurate idea of where would be the most cost-effective and convenient place to site this project.”
The recommendations in Schneider’s analysis will be key in helping Williams decide where to ultimately construct its electrolysis plant as well as which type of hydrogen it will be more successful in producing.
“Jacob’s work identifying optimal siting locations is a critical step in our clean hydrogen strategy in Wyoming as we focus on leveraging our existing energy infrastructure for the storage and transportation of hydrogen to local and regional markets, including the Pacific Northwest via our Northwest Pipeline,” says Brian Hlavinka, vice president of new energy ventures at Williams. “Williams appreciates the support of the University of Wyoming, its staff and students in the important research underway as we work to develop a clean hydrogen economy in Wyoming and beyond.”
A senior in SER’s Energy Resource Management and Development (ERMD) program, Schneider is pursuing a degree with a concentration in professional land management, which focuses on learning about property law and ownership, land use, energy development, siting, permitting and leasing.
Work on the Williams project has allowed Schneider to accelerate his learning and apply his classroom skills into a real scenario.
“This has been my favorite job to date,” Schneider says. “It has been rewarding to know that I am working on a topic that is going to make a tangible impact in the immediate future. It also has been really valuable to learn from the other people who work here and on the project. I have learned a lot about geochemistry and geology directly from the experts, and that has been incredible.”
Schneider began his UW education as a petroleum engineering major, but he switched to ERMD when he realized the program was so versatile and integrated in a variety of disciplines and energy development technologies.
Through his role with CEGR, he also gained incomparable experience assisting on other research projects, including the Wyoming CarbonSAFE Project and the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership project, where he was able to lend his skills researching surface and mineral ownership. He has recently accepted a summer internship with Water & Environmental Technologies in Sheridan, where he will conduct title work and geographic information system mapping.
Schneider is on pace to graduate in December and hopes to continue working in the realm of breakthrough energy technologies, including hydrogen, and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) in the Rocky Mountain region. After gaining a few years of professional experience, he hopes to add the newly launched CCUS certificate to his credentials.
“I have loved my degree work and my time here at SER,” Schneider says. “Everyone -- from my professors to my colleagues -- has been willing to help me succeed. I have gained valuable mentorship and positive work experiences during my time here. I am eager to enter the workforce and to continue to learn throughout my career.”