Wyoming’s effort to bolster global demand for coal will take a step forward next year after this week’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with two Japanese companies to test new carbon capture technologies at the state’s Integrated Test Center near Gillette.
According to a news release, the Japanese government’s Coal Energy Center (JCOAL) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are officially moving forward with a carbon capture test project at the facility, which has been in the works since 2018.
Construction is set to begin sometime in 2021.
Tuesday’s news is nothing new: State of Wyoming and JCOAL have been working to develop new coal technologies together since the signing of an initial MOU between the two parties in 2016. The project is the latest in a lengthy list of tenants at the facility, which includes companies from Scotland, China, India and around the United States.
Carbon capture technology has also been worked on within the state for some time. Last month, Exxon successfully received approval from the state’s Industrial Siting Council to construct a new carbon capture facility for its natural gas sites in LaBarge.
The project between Kawasaki and JCOAL, however, could be a significant one, particularly as climate change and emissions regulations continue to hamper the marketplace for coal. JCOAL’s proposal includes the rollout of their novel solid sorbent capture technology, a type of solid material highly effective at pulling C02 particles from the air.Eventually, it is hoped those technologies can be scaled up and applied to industrial facilities, like coal-fired power plants and others, to produce byproducts to store those carbon emissions. While some researchers have pursued the creation of more ambitious byproducts – like batteries – using similar sorbent technologies, JCOAL’s plans include using captured emissions in products like concrete in what JCOAL described in 2017 as a “circular” economy for coal and its byproducts.
Many of Wyoming’s leaders have boosted carbon capture technology as a way to buoy the state’s flagging coal industry. But critics questions whether the technology will be cheap enough to compete in the marketplace. They also question whether demand for the technology will be enough to reserve coal’s downward trend.