The Eagle Butte mine just north of the Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport produced 12.3 million tons of coal last year. At an average of about $12 a ton, the coal was worth about $147 million when burned to produce power. As a source of carbon for manufacturing, Powder River Basin coal has the potential to be worth many thousands times more per ton.
A composite image shows Atlas Carbon, center, and the lot at the right for Clean Coal Technologies’ test plant at the former Fort Union mine site off Garner Lake Road north of Gillette. The site also will be home to the Wyoming Innovation Center, which recently broke ground.
Cinder blocks infused with waste carbon dioxide from the Dry Fork Station power plant north of Gillette are formed while the CarbonBuilt team was at the Integrated Test Center last summer to show how its technology can scale. The UCLA team’s project is one of two NRG COSIA XPrize winners announced in April.
Going carb-free may be the diet du jour for people looking to drop a few pounds, but when it comes to re-imagining the Powder River Basin’s coal-dependent economy, many believe in carbon-loading.
Even as PRB thermal coal production has declined by more than 50% over the past decade, more research, innovation and development is being pushed to find ways to make coal clean to use and much more valuable.