Rocky gets coal plant nod

Rocky gets coal plant nod

Wyoming’s largest electrical utility, Rocky Mountain Power, is the likely partner in a Wyoming-sponsored effort to launch a coal-gasification demonstration project.

The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, which is spearheading the project, announced Tuesday it would conduct a special meeting today to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding with Rocky Mountain Power, formerly PacifiCorp.

The intent is to align a Wyoming-based project to win federal dollars yet to be committed under a section of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which calls for a commercial-scale demonstration of an integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, plant fueled by lower-rank Western coal. The process presents an opportunity to capture and sequester carbon dioxide, the key greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

Such a demonstration is considered key to expanding Wyoming’s shovel-and-ship export of the raw coal commodity to more “value-added” processes of converting coal to electricity for export by wire. That’s the case-positive scenario.

Others see the demonstration of IGCC in Wyoming as a defense for an industry that provides about $500 million in state revenues annually. With IGCC technology, Eastern coal may no longer be at a disadvantage to Wyoming’s low-sulfur coal.

Even if Powder River Basin coal producers do manage to maintain their hold on the Midwestern utility market, Wyoming would still need some type of carbon-capture coal technology. For the past several years, Wyoming has been gunning to anchor Western electrical transmission projects such as the Frontier Line project serving California and Nevada, which are placing CO2 caps on the electricity they allow into their states.

Rocky Mountain Power’s IGCC proposal was included in a short list of two potential candidates that also included Douglas-based Wyoming Gasification & Synfuels Co. That company’s proposal includes a 100 percent CO2 sequestration component.

Rocky Mountain Power’s IGCC plant would be incorporated with its existing Jim Bridger plant near Point of Rocks in Sweetwater County, and would capture only a percentage of CO2 emissions.

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