ITC in Gillette chosen for $52M CO2 capture project

GILLETTE – Less than two weeks removed from announcing the winners of the NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize, the Integrated Test Center is at the center of another large, high-profile carbon capture project.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Friday afternoon that the ITC, attached to the Dry Fork Station coal-fired power plant about 10 miles north of Gillette, will host one of two large U.S. Department of Energy CO2 capture research projects.

The DOE has awarded $99 million to a pair of projects to continue their research into Phase III of the federal Demonstration of Large-Scale Pilot Carbon Capture Technologies program.

One of those Phase III projects is from a group called Membrane Technology and Research (MTR), which was awarded $51.7 million. Along with other non-federal financial backing, the project will bring more than $64 million in research money to Wyoming and Campbell County, Gordon said in a press release announcing the funding awards.

“I am delighted that Membrane Technology and Research has been selected to move forward in this process, and that Wyoming has been chosen to host this important demonstration of cutting edge carbon capture technology,” Gordon said in the release. “This is exactly the type of research that was envisioned when the ITC was developed and Wyoming will continue to support these efforts.”

CarbonBuilt, a research team from the University of California-Los Angeles, was one of two teams of scientists that tested their CO2 capture and reuse technologies at the ITC last summer. On April 19, CarbonBuilt was announced as one of two XPrize winners, with each getting a $7.5 million award.

While the XPrize was the first tenant to sign on to do research at the ITC when it was conceived in 2014, it has only scratched the surface of the facility’s potential for being at ground zero of developing solutions to a global CO2 emissions problem, said Jason Begger, managing director for the ITC.

The MTR project will be much larger than what the XPrize teams brought to Wyoming. With two large and five small test bays, the ITC can scale with the size of projects. MTR will operate in the large test bay and use about 10 megawatts worth of flue gas from the power plant, according to the release.

The facility began in 2014 with a $15 million appropriation from the Wyoming Legislature. With access of up to about 20MW of emissions, the ITC is one of a few research facilities that can use large amounts of flue gas.

Attracting large, high-profile research projects to the ITC doesn’t do much for the Powder River Basin’s coal industry, but it does position Gillette and Campbell County to help the area realize a goal of becoming a hub for carbon research, said Rob Godby, an energy economist with the University of Wyoming.

The announcement of the MTR research project “definitely vindicates the ITC as a useful research location, because they’re doing the research there because of the commercial flue. It’s hard to find a CO2 stream with that (volume).”

It’s one of two places in the nation that can give researchers access to large amounts of flue gas from a power plant. The other is the National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama.

A project of MTR’s size on the heels of the XPrize, along with other research already committed to the ITC, helps solidify the facility as an asset that can help spur more research around it, Godby said.

“For that reason, it could in the future lead to spin-offs in additional research,” he said.

“The bottom line is, the ITC was built to develop this sort of research,” he said. “There are only two places in the country to do this at scale. If research is going to be done, Gillette could be at the center of it.”