NE Wyoming's Local Governments Commit To Dept. Of Energy Project

Nov 22, 2019

Credit Jimmy Emerson / Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Campbell County's local governments are supporting a project that hopes to bring a new Department of Energy rare earth laboratory to the area.

Both the Gillette City Council and the Campbell County Commission held special votes on Thursday, November 21 to support the development of a Rare Earth Elements extraction lab in the county in partnership with the University of Wyoming.

The city and county agreed to each provide financial support for three years as part of the UW's application to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Technology Commercialization Fund. The project is led by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The governing bodies committed to each giving $62,500 a year, as part of the three-year cost-share with UW. That totals to $187,500 for a three-year period from each local body.

UW will commit $375,000 over three years "to fund researchers at UW to support the project," said Scott Quillinan, director of research at the UW School of Energy Resources.

The financial commitments have not been paid, as the support is a part of the application process.

Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said she hopes bringing the DOE to the area will lead to more economic opportunities.

"We need them out here right in the ground zero of energy. You know who knows what else could develop just from them coming here and stationing themselves and being here where they should have been probably quite a few years ago," Carter-King said.

The rare earth elements would be extracted from coal and coal byproducts, which are already present in Campbell County. County Commission Chairman Rusty Bell said that will make it easier to work on economic diversification, which has been a big topic in the county for a while.

"So when you have something coming in here that's actually creating something else out of that especially something as valuable as rare earths out of something that is actually a waste product, that's even better than just using the carbon itself," Bell said.

At the city meeting, project officials said there's a possibility that the lab would work with the planned Advanced Carbon Products Innovation Center, an incubator that would allow researchers and entrepreneurs to work on the commercialization of carbon-based products.

A decision from the Department of Energy will come in two to five months.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.