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Wyoming coal could benefit from Texas permitting carbon capture expansion

Greg Goebel
Flickr via CC BY-SA 2.0

Wyoming’s coal industry could benefit from a proposed expansion on the use of the one the state’s most abundant fossil fuels with Texas is considering expanding its permitting process forcarbon capture technology. This could in turn benefit Wyoming’s coal industry.

Currently, Texas is the top recipient of Wyoming coal, which has elected to keep fossil fuels as a significant part of their power generation profile.

“We moved about just shy of 41 million tons of coal to them last year,” said Travis Deti, Executive Director of theWyoming Mining Association. “As the largest consumer, it shows that they're kind of serious about their carbon capture and storage efforts, and what that kind of signals to Wyoming is that they plan on continuing to use Wyoming coal.”

Texas’s consumption of Wyoming coal has led to that state’s increase in CO2 emissions, which officials there are seeking to curb with an emphasis on carbon capture initiatives.

“I think, frankly, Texas is in that situation where given what happened during the winter a couple of years ago where the renewables didn't quite do what they were supposed to do, they see that they missed the necessity of keeping fossil fuels on their grid,” he added. “In order to keep their fossil fuels online, to keep their citizens with power, they're going to have to keep those online and in order to do that they've got to address the carbon dioxide issue and carbon capture right now is the way to go. So, it shows that they're serious to do it, to take the primacy and do it in state. I think it's always better to better than to have it regulated by the federal government and I think that's reflected in their decision.”

Wyoming, in addition to North Dakota, are currently the only two states that permit wells where CO2 is sequestered underground. Carbon capture initiatives are present in both states.Wells have been drilled near the Dry Fork Station power plant north of Gillette to sequester carbon underground.

Texas is starting to express interest in getting in on carbon capture. It includes seeking oversight for Class VI wells, with the hope of speeding up the process. This would increase competition in what’s shaping up to be a competitive industry. But there’s not necessarily much concern in Wyoming about this per se.

“Because it's localized [carbon capture initiatives], if you're doing your own capture, carbon capture and storage, permitting, you're probably most likely going to be doing the capture component of it in your own state in your own geographical area,” Deti explained.

The amount of Cowboy State coal heading to Texas has declined from its peak, from around 55 to 60 million tons. But Deti added that he expects to see a slight increase in the amount that’s sent this year when the official figures are released, and which will remain relatively stable overall.

The permitting process for Texas and other states seeking to get in on carbon capture and sequestration is likely to be several years away at least, he added.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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