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Wanted: CO2 capture research area at Wyoming plant

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm •  Published: June 20, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming officials say they hope to hear back soon from power companies in the state willing to offer up space at a coal-fired power plant to host carbon-capture research for a proposed competition with a $10 million prize.

State officials met in late May with executives of three power companies that have coal-fired power plants in Wyoming. The utility officials said they'd get back with Gov. Matt Mead's office on the research-hosting proposal by early July, Mead adviser Rob Hurless said.

As of Friday, the governor's office hadn't heard yet from Rocky Mountain Power, Black Hills Corp. and Basin Electric Power Cooperative. Between them, the utilities wholly own or have a stake in nine coal-fired plants operating in the state.

"The state needs a volunteer — somebody that owns a coal plant to raise their hand and say, 'Yeah, we'd consider hosting that,' " Hurless said.

Wyoming is keenly interested in carbon-capture research because it supplies almost 40 percent of the nation's coal, far more than any other state.

Coal-fired electricity, while inexpensive, is the prime target for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, which scientists say causes global warming. Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed sweeping new rules with the goal of achieving a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions nationwide, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030.

State officials have been dreading any such federal move for at least a decade. Coal extracted from the Powder River Basin's vast surface mines is the pillar of Wyoming's economy.

Last winter, the Wyoming Legislature allocated $15 million to construct a test facility at a coal-fired power plant. Research teams would use the facility to compete for a $10 million carbon-capture XPrize competition proposed by Westminster, Colorado-based electricity wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

"Wyoming has an abundance of coal, and we know we must find productive ways to put coal and its byproducts to use," Mead said in a statement Thursday. "We are showing leadership in supporting this kind of advanced research."

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