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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: July 8th 2009


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:: Coal Plant Officials Attend Cheyenne Event

Construction of a $100 million research plant to refine and improve technology on turning coal into clean-burning natural gas will start next year with the goal of having the plant up and running by late 2012, officials said.

Officials from the University of Wyoming and General Electric Co. on Tuesday provided more details on the facility. It will research turning coal into natural gas and other products through a low emission process.

Wyoming is the nation's leading coal producing state and finding cleaner ways to turn coal into electricity is important for the state's economy, given the concern over climate change. Coal-fired power plants emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The state has invested $50 million into the research plant.

"We all know that coal is going to play a prominent role for decades, more than likely, and it's up to the interested parties to get coal related energy production addressed in such a fashion that it's acceptable to a changing international marketplace," Chris Boswell, Gov. Dave Freudenthal's chief of staff, said. "And this sort of research holds just terrific potential for that."

GE Energy General Manager Monte Atwell said one of the primary goals of the Cheyenne plant is to refine and improve current technology to gasify coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin, which is wetter than other types of coal that have been used in previous gasification processes.

"If I can find a way to use PRB in a dry form, then that is a big efficiency gain and it's a tremendous potential for PRB in a gasification context," Atwell said.

Atwell said the plant will test different types of coal from around the world as well.

Officials say constructing the plant will create about 300 jobs. Once the plant is running, it will employ about 15 people and be available to University of Wyoming professors and students.




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