Coal is facing pressure on two fronts: cost and CO2 emissions. Basin Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Bismarck & serving nine states, has partnered with the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming to commercialize and deploy a carbon capture & storage project.

Basin Electric’s 400 Mega Watt Dry Fork Power Station is located in Wyoming. In this week’s KX Ag & Energy Insight, we look at how the success of ‘Wyoming Carbon SAFE’ closely mirrors the success of North Dakota’s Carbon Safe Project.

Wyoming and North Dakota are leading the charge for the next generation of coal. Much like North Dakota, Wyoming exports the vast majority of its energy.

Scott Quillinan of the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming knows that in order for coal to survive, Wyoming coal power will need to meet the stricter clean energy standards of the states they export to.

Just about every BTU that’s mined or generated in Wyoming, like 90 percent of them, they’re shipped outside of our state’s borders, so that means we’re kinda beholden to energy policies that are happening in other states,” explains Quillinan.

The valley that encircles Gillette, Wyoming, where Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Power Station is located, has earned the nickname ‘Carbon Valley.’

In Carbon Valley: a trifecta of private, state, and federal interests leverage off each other towards one common goal, carbon capture and storage.

Quillinan explains, “Looking specifically at this site, you have the private industry Basin Electric and TriState, you have the integrated test center which was funded public-private to test CO2 utilization technologies and carbon capture technologies, and then you have the federally funded project of Wyoming CarbonSAFE looking at the carbon storage.”

Center for Economic Geology Research Director Fred McLaughlin, technical lead, has steered the project to phase three of four.

“This Summer we’re going to drill an additional well, we’ve got an existing well, the final reservoir performance testing, so then we’ll have an idea of the final volumes and injectivity rates that we can deal with at each different storage site within a larger complex,” explains McLaughlin.

Much like North Dakota, Wyoming has favorable geology. By conducting 2D and 3D mapping, and oil field method reservoir stress testing using water, Carbon Valley proves to be an ideal geological location for storing Dry Fork Power Station’s 3.3 million tons of CO2 per year.

“Right now we’re trying to finalize geologic characterization which is not just how much these reservoirs, these deep two-mile reservoirs, might be able to hold safely, but also the different containment units above those are ceiling formations,” explains McLaughlin.

“These reservoirs have held geologic fluids, oil, and gas, for geologic time scales, millions of years. So, we feel pretty confident if we put CO2 into these reservoirs they’ll be held in for millions of years,” added Quillinan.

Both scientists say Basin Electric’s support and involvement have been pivotal to the success of the project thus far.

Basin Electric Senior Staff Writer/Editor Tracie Bettenhausen met with KX at the companies Bismarck headquarters.

“If we can figure out how to capture the carbon dioxide from that power plant, store it right near the dry forks station, we really think that would be a great way to continue to use coal in the future as a reliable as an electricity source. We believe in an all of the above energy strategy,” explains Bettenhausen.

North Dakota and Wyoming have primacy over the class of wells needed to inject CO2 into the subsurface.
And, both states have the legal framework in place. As well as a team of experienced CO2 storage scientists coupled with forward-thinking Industry partners. Basin Electric partnered with the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming and Minnkota Power Cooperative partnered with University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center.

“Wyoming and North Dakota are really leading this. So, yeah if we can’t do it. It’s going to be tough do to elsewhere,” explains Quillinan.

By the end of 2023 they will have one sight fully permitted for wells and ready to inject CO2. Basin Electric’s Wyoming Carbon SAFE’s goal is to go commercial in 2025.

The scientists tell KX the surrounding communities living around Dry Fork Power Station have been supportive and engaged through all phases of the project. When it moves to full commercialization, the project will create 150 new high-paying jobs, with 75 jobs supported locally through 2050.

Follow the link to learn more about The Department of Energy’s (DOE) CarbonSAFE project.

Follow this link to learn more about The School of Energy Resources at University of Wyoming.

Follow this link for North Dakota’s CarbonSAFE project, Project Tundra.