Wyoming Coal Could Benefit From Texas Permitting Expansion

Wyoming coal could be bolstered by other states seeking authority to permit class VI wells, but it could cost the state its competitive edge in carbon capture.

October 07, 20223 min read

Giant coal truck
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

When CarbonCapture announced its direct air capture facility in Sweetwater County – Project Bison – the company said Wyoming was chosen, in large part, because the state permits class VI wells through a process called primacy. These wells are where captured carbon dioxide is stored. 

Wyoming is one of two states in the nation — North Dakota is the other — that permit the wells where CO2 is sequestered. 

When permitting goes through the EPA it can take several years. E&E News reports that other states, namely Texas and Louisiana, are now seeking oversight of class VI wells in hopes of expediting the permitting process in those state. 

If Texas and Louisiana win approval, Wyoming could lose its competitive edge in a rapidly growing industry. 

But industry watchers say that shouldn’t have a big impact on carbon capture efforts in Wyoming, and it might even benefit the state’s coal industry. 

Already Out Front

Scott Quillinan, senior director of research at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, has been involved with CarbonSAFE, one of the nation’s original carbon capture, utilization and storage project sites. 

Quillinan said that Wyoming exports a lot of coal to Texas, which contributes to that state’s CO2 emissions. If Texas were to permit class VI wells faster and grow its carbon capture industry, it means more of the CO2 produced from Wyoming coal isn’t going into the atmosphere. 

“It will help decarbonize the energy systems, and states continue to buy energy products from Wyoming,” Quillinan said. 

And with gigatons of carbon dioxide needed to be removed from the atmosphere, there’s no shortage of work. 

“Wyoming should be incredibly supportive of Texas and other states pursuing classic VI primacy,” Quillinan said. 

Still Years From Happening

Randall Luthi, chief energy advisor for Gov. Mark Gordon, said that should Texas or other states win primacy over its class VI wells, it will still be years away. 

“I think we’ve got at least a little bit of lead time, which will help us quite a bit,” Luthi said.

It took North Dakota five years to get its application for primacy approved. Wyoming received authority to permit class VI wells in September 2020 after applying the previous January, but it already had primacy over other classes of wells. 

Luthi said Texas also has plenty of its own carbon dioxide emissions to sequester, so it’s not going to leave Wyoming without a piece of the pie. The Cowboy State just needs to stay ahead of the curve. 

“It may not be quite the competition, we think, at least not for the immediate future. So it’s important to Wyoming to get out fast and early and lock up our markets as fast as we can,” Luthi said. 

Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture’s vice president for business development, said Project Bison combines a modular facility that will be manufactured somewhere in Wyoming, with well sites managed by Frontier Carbon Solutions. The facility and its associated wells will be located in Sweetwater, Uinta and Lincoln counties. Once complete, it would be the largest project of its kind. 

There are now no class VI wells permitted in Wyoming. Frontiers filed three class VI permit applications with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality in September. The only other class VI permit application was filed by North Shore Energy LLC in December 2021, and it’s still under review.

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