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Wyoming’s oil and gas industry creates network to help look toward carbon removal, storage and use 

Oil drilling rigs in the middle of a wide prairie.
Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming’s oil and gas industry continues to look at what comes next for it in the face of climate change and demand for ‘cleaner’ energy, and the industry is creating a network to help do that.

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) represents the majority of oil and gas operators in the state, and the group recently formed the Wyoming Carbon Innovation Network. The network’s co-chair Julie Martinez said they’ll be looking at everything from, “dealing with the carbon, but it's also where do you put the carbon? How do you move the carbon? How do you extract it from the air?”

Carbon is a climate warming gas that can come from fossil fuel production.

The network is exploring something called, ‘carbon management’, which involves two things. One, removing carbon – which is a climate warming gas – from oil and natural gas production or possibly even from the atmosphere. Two, doing something with that carbon they remove.

One way to reuse the carbon is enhanced oil recovery.

“It can also be used to be put back in the ground and all reservoirs because the CO2 cleans the rocks, and helps produce additional oil,” Martinez said.

Basically, that carbon is pumped into the ground and it helps push out more oil in aging wells.

This is already happening in some places in the state, including at Exxon’s Shute Creek plant in southwest Wyoming. Martinez said the idea within the network is to bring all sorts of companies and experts on this topic to help develop the carbon industry in Wyoming, with a specific focus on smaller oil and gas companies.

“Some may not realize that they have carbon management ability, and others might realize they have it, but they think it's outside their reach. And so this provides connections to other operators, other academics, and so forth, so that they have an opportunity to be a part of this carbon management industry,” Martinez said.

Some environmental groups and experts do support carbon capture as a partial answer to slowing climate change, but do still question the costs versus benefits. According to a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report, carbon removal from the atmosphere will be required if countries fail to achieve climate goals, which includes limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the report warns that carbon removal technologies are “expensive and unproven”, according to reporting from NPR.

Plus, many environmental groups don’t support using that carbon to produce more fossil fuels. They say the focus should be a shift away from fossil fuels.

But, Martinez said she sees the network as a way to support the future of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry, jobs and the environmental goals.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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