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Published August 10, 2023
Michael Regan, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wrapped up a two-day tour of Wyoming -- at the invitation of Gov. Mark Gordon -- with a visit to the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources (SER).
The visit, which took place Aug. 8-9, showcased the robust energy sector in the state, as well as the commitment to advanced technologies and the work occurring at SER and across UW to support the state’s energy sector while balancing environmental protection. The visit comes amid much discourse related to the EPA’s proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal- and gas-fired power plants.
“I think that when we look at the proposed rule -- which is a proposal -- it takes a look at a number or suite of tools and technologies that we believe may be available to meet certain emission levels,” Regan says. “And part of the reason I am here today is to look at the research and development for this technology and think through whether or not it should or how it could be applied in the rule setting.”
According to the most recent assessment from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wyoming is the second-largest net energy supplier in the nation, exporting 12 times the energy it uses from a diverse portfolio including coal, oil, natural gas and wind, with plans to add nuclear in the mix.
Gordon has consistently emphasized that reaching net-zero emissions globally by 2050 will require the United States to invest in carbon capture and clean energy technologies and that Wyoming is at the forefront in that space.
“This was a great opportunity to visit this facility (SER) and really talk about the practical implications of proposals coming out of D.C. with the administrator. This is a follow-up to earlier conversations at the Western Governors’ Association Meeting and in D.C.,” Gordon says. “It is really exciting to have him here to talk about the ability of Wyoming energy industries to continue to power the nation consistently and reliably into the future. We are and will continue to be a part of the solution of providing energy with lower emissions and do it with an all-of-the-above strategy.”
Regan kicked off the Wyoming tour with a visit to the Wind River Indian Reservation where he met with several tribal leaders and representatives from the state’s interagency working group. He then headed to Gillette for an introduction to the innovative carbon capture and sequestration projects, as well as the efforts to transform coal into value-added products.
He visited the Integrated Test Center, Wyoming’s facility for researchers to test carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies using actual coal-based flue gas from Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station. Regan met with current technology developer tenants at the facility advancing their next-generation technologies. Additionally, he was able to experience an in-depth tour of the power plant itself and visit the SER-led Wyoming CarbonSAFE project site, which houses the first two carbon storage wells drilled to Class VI standards in Wyoming.
The tour culminated with a demonstration of alternative uses for coal. These included nonenergy products, a source of rare earth elements and critical minerals, and using coal as a feedstock for products, one of the transformative ways in which Wyoming is focused on continuing to use the abundant natural resources in the Powder River Basin.
Following a tour of Wyoming’s coal country, Regan visited Laramie to meet with representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality in a roundtable discussion and hear presentations from UW faculty, staff and students working on important research projects to support Wyoming’s energy sector.
Several UW centers of excellence were showcased in the presentations. These included SER’s Center for Air Quality, which works to quantify, model and enable reductions of emissions associated with energy production, as well as the Center of Excellence in Produced Water Management, which works with the Wyoming energy sector on technologies for the purification of produced water.
“Wyoming has long been a leader in responsible energy production,” says SER Executive Director Holly Krutka. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to showcase the work being done at SER and across UW to support the state’s energy sector to demonstrate best environmental practices.”