Wyoming energy sector testifies in D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Cowboy State’s vital energy sector made its case known on Capital Hill last week as Sen. John Barrasso invited some of the state’s energy experts to testify in front the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, of which Barrasso is a ranking member, before the senator himself made his own impassioned statements.

Most of the discussion happened on Thursday, April 22, during a full Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to examine opportunities and challenges for carbon and carbon-dioxide utilization technologies. During that discussion, Barrasso said Wyoming is on the “cutting edge” of carbon capture research and innovation, something Gov. Mark Gordon has expressed pride in.

Multiple experts were called to testify during the session, including Randall Atkins, CEO of Wyoming-based Ramaco Carbon, and Jason Begger, managing director of the Wyoming Integrated Test Center. Begger has testified in front of the Senate multiple times before, including at a field hearing inside Integrated Test Center last summer in Gillette.

Sen. Barrasso said that if the world is going to meet its goal in addressing climate change, carbon capture, utilization and storage was necessary.

“Earlier this year, the executive director of the International Energy Agency testified before this committee that carbon capture is an ‘extremely important’ technology for reducing carbon emissions,” Barrasso said before the committee. “That’s why I have long been a champion of carbon capture technologies.”

Barrasso previously introduced the Greenhouse Gas Emission Atmospheric Removal Act, or GEAR Act, in 2008, which received two reads before being referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. That bill died before receiving a vote. Last year, as part of a bipartisan effort, he helped pass the USE IT Act to support carbon capture and sequestration technology.

“It expedites the permitting of important infrastructure like carbon dioxide pipelines, it helps researchers find commercial uses for captured carbon dioxide emissions,” Barrasso said. “Carbon dioxide emissions can be transformed to create numerous products – including clothing from carbon foams, carbon fiber, building materials like cement and concrete, and even hand sanitizer.”

Wyoming’s senior senator explained how the Integrated Test Center in Gillette operates and why it started in 2018. He talked about the recent Carbon XPRIZE, a research competition recently conducted in Gillette to showcase innovation in carbon capture utilization and sequestration technologies.

Barrasso said that’s what people like Atkins and Begger have provided through their work – innovation.

Begger further explained the Integrated Test Center and its thorough work during his written testimony. He also shared conclusions his team has found during its now three years of research.

“While work still needs to be done developing and commercializing capture technologies, we have seen commercial carbon capture projects on an array of industrial facilities across the globe,” Begger wrote. “Today’s commercial project largely utilize solvent technologies. Over the next few years, the ITC will be hosting research teams testing newer capture technologies such as dry sorbents and membranes with the goal of reducing capital construction and operational costs.”

He went on to explain the multitude of items that can be produced through CO2 transformation. He also said that Wyoming is adequately equipped to embrace carbon capture technology in order to create and provide those products.

“Wyoming is the perfect place to conduct CCUS research,” Begger wrote. “We have facilities, we have agencies with expertise in regulating CO2 and a ‘get to yes’ attitude towards permitting, we have a legislature and governor supportive of technology development and lastly, we have public support for these types of projects.”

Ramaco Carbon is an example of the state’s willingness to move in that direction. Atkins spoke before the Senate about America’s need to embrace its carbon resources to create new economic and competitive advantages – like his Sheridan-based business.

Atkins noted that most carbon products today are manufactured with petroleum feedstocks, a far less economical option with the carbon equivalent of coal.

“If we could make these carbon materials for less cost using coal, it would have a dramatic positive disruption on the cost structure of many industries, as well as improve the environmental and qualitative aspects of many products,” Atkins said.

Atkins is also the chairman of the National Coal Council, a proponent for coal-to-products research and technology.

Barrasso thanked both of them for their time and their innovation.

During the same committee hearing, the senator also took the time to address the current Biden administration’s energy plans.

Barrasso said that by pledging to cut carbon emissions in half by the end of the decade President Biden was “unilaterally committing America to a drastic and damaging emissions pledge.” He asserted that by reducing carbon emissions, the United States' economy would fall behind economic adversaries like China and Russia, which would cause higher energy prices and fewer American jobs in the sector.

“The president’s scheme will cost working families a fortune in higher energy bills,” Barrasso said. “It will also hurt America’s international competitiveness. It’s no wonder President Biden won’t explain to the American people just how much this plan is going to cost them.”