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Wyoming Delegation Explores Coal Opportunities in Visit to China

September 23, 2015
two men sit at a table with microphones
State Sens. Michael Von Flatern (left) and Jeff Wasserburger of Campbell County participate in a discussion during the fifth China International Energy Industry Expo and Low Carbon Development Summit Forum Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China. University of Wyoming representatives also participated. (UW Photo)

Representatives of the University of Wyoming and one of China’s major coal-producing regions explored the potential for collaborative efforts to advance clean-coal and coal-conversion technologies during meetings in China last week.

The UW delegation, from the School of Energy Resources and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, was accompanied by state Sens. Michael Von Flatern and Jeff Wasserburger of Campbell County. They gave presentations and engaged in discussions during a global conference and related meetings in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province.

Demand for coal in China, as in Wyoming, is in decline as utilities seek reductions in carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants in response to government regulation and market changes. Like Wyoming, Shanxi Province is concerned about revenue losses related to the coal industry’s downturn. Although their populations differ significantly in size, Shanxi Province and Wyoming both depend largely on coal and other mineral production to drive their economies.

Universities and other research organizations in Shanxi Province are expanding efforts to fund research in clean-coal and coal-conversion technologies. They expressed interest in UW’s carbon engineering program and invited UW scientists to apply for research funding under the province’s domestic and international programs. To date, UW is the only non-Chinese entity invited to apply under the domestic program, says Mark Northam, director of the School of Energy Resources.

Northam delivered a keynote address to an audience of 800 at the fifth China International Energy Industry Expo and Low Carbon Development Summit Forum, at the invitation of the Shanxi Provincial Science and Technology Institute.

The meetings also identified opportunities for foreign investment in UW-based research; collaboration on broad technological approaches to carbon engineering; recruitment of students and faculty, as well as exchanges involving UW faculty; and foreign investment in industry that might be established in Wyoming.

Other Wyoming presenters and their topics were:

-- John Jiao, chief geologist of UW’s Carbon Management Institute, on findings from the UW Rock Springs Uplift carbon dioxide sequestration site.

-- Von Flatern, on the challenges of the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting CO2 emissions from power plants.

-- Wasserburger, on the importance of Powder River Basin coal mining to the state’s economy, and Wyoming’s global reach both in resources and education.

-- Richard Horner, deputy director of emerging technologies and special projects in the School of Energy Resources, on UW’s and the state’s initiative for coal-based carbon engineering designed to meet a market gap for carbon fiber and bring a new growth industry to Wyoming.

-- Michael Pishko, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, on the vision and opportunities for UW’s Tier-1 Engineering Initiative.

-- Maohong Fan, School of Energy Resources professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, on UW’s advanced coal conversion research program.

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