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University of Wyoming lands massive federal grant for carbon storage

BLM Wyoming
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University of Wyoming officials say they hope a future carbon storage facility could serve a variety of customers, including natural gas companies.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $40.5 million to the University of Wyoming (UW) to help build a carbon storage hub in the Greater Green River Basin. UW officials say it’s the largest federal grant the school has ever received.

The hub will be located near Granger and is the fifth major carbon storage project for the university. UW will partner with a Texas-based company to build a series of wells where carbon dioxide can be injected deep underground. It’s part of a federal effort to improve carbon capture and storage – called CarbonSAFE – and is the largest of several recent grants announced by the Biden Administration.

Fred McLaughlin at UW’s School of Energy Resources said at a state legislative hearing that he hopes the storage hub can eventually serve a variety of local industries, from “trona, to maybe direct air capture to even some of the oil and natural gas that already exists.”

Carbon capture usually involves trapping the carbon dioxide produced by power generation, compressing it and transporting it via pipelines to storage facilities. Though the technology is relatively new, Wyoming is especially interested in it because of its potential to reduce emissions and maintain the viability of fossil fuels like coal.

McLaughlin also said this announcement is the result of years of research and investment in carbon capture in Wyoming. Department of Energy officials say that the Cowboy State is also in need of transition opportunities away from traditional fossil fuel mining and generation – and is ready to embrace projects like this.

“Wyoming's very lucky to have an experienced workforce that is not inherent to the rest of the United States,” McLaughlin said. “There's only a few states that actually have carbon management industries.”

Some scientists have warned that carbon capture and storage is too expensive and inefficient to be effective at reducing emissions in the near term.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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