UW receives multi-million investment from DOE for energy initiatives

Brady Oltmans, boltmans@pinedaleroundup.com
Posted 5/13/21

UW's funds will be largely split between two separate projects – one in the Powder River Basin and one in the Greater Green River and Wind River basins.

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UW receives multi-million investment from DOE for energy initiatives


WYOMING – Both the University of Wyoming and Gov. Mark Gordon announced new developments between the state and U.S. Department of Energy for funding different carbon initiatives across the state.

UW announced it is the recipient of nearly $3 million inform the DOE for research focusing on expanding and transforming coal and coal-based resources to produce coal-based products using carbon ore, rare earth elements and critical minerals.

Those funds will be largely split between two separate projects – one in the Powder River Basin and one in the Greater Green River and Wind River basins.

The separate projects were submitted by the university’s School of Energy Resources Center for Economic Geology Research and were selected by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy. The 13 different chosen endeavors with funding totaling $13 million were announced last week.

“SER is thrilled to have received these grants from the Department of Energy,” SER Executive Director Holly Krutka said in a release. “We are honored to collaborate with stakeholders around the state and region to lead a research program focused on building the tools needed to support a rare earths and critical minerals industry.”

A release stated that America’s been largely dependent on imports of rare earth elements. As demand has risen, the U.S. has engaged in finding alternative domestic sources.

Sen. John Barrasso recently spoke about Wyoming’s pride in innovation and commitment to carbon capture technology during a session of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

On April 30, Gov. Gordon announced Wyoming’s Integrated Test Center will host one of two projects selected by the DOE for Phase 3 funding of a large-scale pilot carbon capture project. Gordon and Jason Begger, managing director of the Integrated Test Center, joined Barrasso to testify in front of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources two weeks ago about ITC and Wyoming’s innovations.

This was part of the DOE’s latest $99 million investment in carbon capture technologies funding opportunities. In addition to the ITC, Membrane Technology and Research was awarded $51,699,939 from the DOE. With additional non-federal funding, this project is expected to net $64 million research dollars for Wyoming.

“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,” Gov. Gordon said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of research that was envisioned when the ITC was developed and Wyoming will continue to support these efforts.”

The ITC and MTR have maintained a working partnership since 2018. Information shared stated MTR will be operating in the large test bay at the ITC.

“We could not be more thrilled for MTR and we are excited to welcome them onsite as they start working on this next phase of testing,” Begger said. “At this scale, we will be able to demonstrate carbon capture technology at a sufficient level to demonstrate to utilities the next step can be a commercial vision.”

Outside of ITC, the university also has existing programs and facilities dedicated to the development of coal products to support these grants.

Feasibility of recovering rare earth elements from coal-based resources has been expanded through efforts led by the DOE and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Davin Bagdonas is the associate research scientist who will lead the efforts in the Great Green River Basin and Wind River Basin, while senior research scientist Erin Phillips will lead the team in the Powder River Basin.

UW’s research is intended to decrease reliance on rare earth elements and catalyze regional economic growth while stimulating workforce development and technologic innovation while using natural resources, including coal, to their full potential across American basins.

“CORE-CM is a strong step forward for the needed diversification of domestic resources and paird technology growth,” Bagdonas said. “The fact that these programs focus not just on REE/CM and carbon ore products derived from coal and coal byproducts, but entire supply chain considerations with associated development at the community level shows a well-thought-out and holistic approach to diversifying and modernizing coal use. This is so important for not just our local communities across Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, but the United States as a whole.”

Phase 1 of both projects will run for two years. If successful in preliminary activities, the projects will be able to apply for additional funding in Phases 2 and 3. The ITC projects have begun Phase 3.