energy

Stephanie Joyce

The Obama administration wants states to cut back on carbon emissions, but doing that has always been a thorny problem. While carbon is a byproduct of almost everything we do, capturing and storing it is expensive. For years, the goal has been to figure out how to make that process cheaper, but more recent efforts take a different approach, with the focus shifting from storing carbon to using it.

On a recent spring morning, Karen Wawrousek led a tour of her lab at the Western Research Institute, on the outskirts of Laramie.

Stephanie Joyce

New regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants are due out at the beginning of next month and industry is warning that they could have a devastating impact on the economy.
 
Speaking at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit in Casper, Dan Byers, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of the regulations will likely significantly outweigh the climate benefits, pointing out that developing nations are emitting more than ever. Byers says he’s skeptical of how the Environmental Protection Agency will calculate cost-benefit.
 

A report says that Wyoming is well positioned to be a leader in the liquefied natural gas industry or LNG for what are called high horsepower industries.   

Melodie Edwards

Some of the best paying jobs in Wyoming are in the oil and gas industry, but only ten percent are held by women.  Energy companies are trying to attract more women to fill open positions.  But women who do want to enter the field for the higher-paying jobs face a lot of barriers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports.

Next week the U-S Senate is expected to have a debate on a bipartisan bill aimed at increasing energy efficiency in the U-S, but it could get derailed by an oil pipeline in the Midwest. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington on Wyoming Senator John Barrasso's role in the ongoing debate.

A company proposing to open an underground coal gasification demonstration site in Wright has been charged with environmental violations in Australia.  The charges could cost the company over two million dollars per violation.

Underground coal gasification involves igniting coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.     

What exactly the environmental harm is has not yet been revealed.

Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.

The federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue, or ONRR, has fined a Wyoming oil and gas producer $204,362 for not submitting timely production reports for its federal leases. Matrix Production Company was issued two notices of noncompliance before ONRR levied the penalties. ONRR spokesman, Patrick Etchart, says the production reports are used to keep companies in check.   

Lawmakers in Washington are debating whether to export more natural gas to combat Russian threats to cut off its gas supplies to Europe. Our D-C reporter  Matt Laslo has a look at what that could mean for Wyoming’s economy – and environment.

It was standing room only at the Wright Public Library last night as residents packed into a hearing about a nearby project that would burn coal seams underground to produce synthesis gas or syngas.

Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project has been in the works for years, but from the public testimony, many Wright residents were hearing about it for the first time. And they had lots of questions about the process, which has never been developed commercially.

Governor Matt Mead and a handful of Wyoming legislators are excited about an idea that they hope will create more jobs in the state and finally do something locally with the minerals and other sources of energy that the state harvests.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.

The country’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is launching a public awareness campaign about climate change.

Wyoming crude oil production is on the upswing.

The state produced more crude oil last year than it has in any year since 1999.  That's in line with a nationwide trend; last year the country produced more crude oil than it has in any year since 1989.

State geologist Tom Drean says the increase can be attributed to more drilling activity in unconventional plays like shale and tight sands, made possible because of technologies like fracking, and horizontal and extended reach drilling.

A U.S. Geological Survey study shows that coalbed methane development has changed the chemistry of the surface water in parts of the Powder River. CBM wastewater was often discharged directly or indirectly into the stream.  

The study analyzed three decades of data and determined that after extraction activities, the water contained more sodium and bicarbonate, which are compounds commonly found in CBM wastewater.

Report author Steve Sando says high sodium levels can be bad for irrigation, but he says the concentrations in the Powder River are not alarmingly high.

According to a new report, Wyoming voters are more likely to vote for candidates who support using public lands for more than just oil and gas development.

With no debate the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a bill that would raise bonding for oil and gas drillers seeking access to surface land they don't own. 

The current bond is $2,000. The bill is attempting to raise that to $10,000, partly in an effort to encourage operators to negotiate surface use agreements with landowners.

Increasing volumes of coal and oil being shipped to the Pacific Northwest are putting pressure on rail capacity in the region, according a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Employment in Wyoming's coal mining sector has fallen 6 percent in the past year. The latest data from June 2013 shows there were 425 less jobs than in June 2012.

Coal production has slumped nationwide, and taken jobs along with it, but Wyoming is faring better than other coal producing regions. Nationwide the sector has lost significantly more jobs as mines closed or reduced their capacity.

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services senior economist David Bullard, says so far, there haven't been many layoffs in the state.

creative commons

Wyoming lawmakers are voting on the state budget this week and are considering proposals to strengthen the energy industry in the state.

15 million dollars is proposed for a facility to study the capture, sequestration, and management of carbon emissions from a coal fired power plant.  Senator Jim Anderson of Glenrock says it’s important to the future of Wyoming Coal.

“Perhaps bring Wyoming into a new era and it would certainly in regard to our reliance on coal and other things that are carbon based be a blessing if in fact we could do this.”

Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Marion Loomis says coal’s future is bright -- but that there’s a need for continued innovation -- both in extraction technology and emissions control.

“We’ve made such tremendous strides in reducing emission levels. We’ve increased coal production about 170 percent in this country in the last 20 years and reduced pollutants by over 85 percent,” says Loomis.

Port facilities that would export Powder River Basin coal through the Pacific Northwest are continuing to move towards construction.

In separate decisions this week, Washington and Oregon both announced progress on permitting for coal export terminals in their respective states.

Along with much of the country, Wyoming has seen a dramatic spike in propane prices over the last six months, but industry observers say it should be short-lived. Baron Glassgow is executive director of the Rocky Mountain Propane Association.

“You know, in the U-S, we’re actually making more propane than we ever have before. So it’s not like we have a shortage of production. It’s just a combination of factors this year that have been kind of like the perfect storm,” Glassgow says. 

A program that recycled Russian nuclear weapons into fuel-grade uranium has run its course, and Wyoming Mining Association Director Marion Loomis says that may leave more room in the marketplace for Wyoming’s uranium. 

Governor Matt Mead and other elected officials made the case during a Jackson forum Wednesday that Wyoming's future depends on energy. They said that tapping state's energy resources, from coal to natural gas, is what pays the bills when it comes to building schools and other vital infrastructure.

But the governor said that doesn't mean producing energy should come at the cost of the environment. And that impressed Paul Hansen, who moderated
the forum.

Teton County drivers will soon be able to buy compressed natural gas at a filling station in Jackson.  The State Loan and Investment Board granted $766,000 towards the purchase of equipment for the project.  

Governor Matt Mead is committing $400,000 dollars for water delivery to households with cisterns in the Pavillion area. Residents have long complained of unusable well water, which some blame on nearby natural gas development. The money is part of a grant from Encana Oil and Gas, which operates in the Pavillion gas field.

19 cisterns are currently being installed, with another 13 households signed up.

The Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says residents will meet later this week to discuss how to use the money.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.

The resource curse is real -- and discernible even at the county level -- according to a new study from the non-profit research group Headwater Economics.

Researchers looked at more than 200 counties across six western states, and found that those with above-average oil and gas development over a long period of time had lower per capita incomes, less educational attainment and higher crime rates.

Another proposed coal export terminal has folded. Ambre Energy is asking to be let out of a lease agreement with the Port of Corpus Christi, saying that shipping Powder River Basin coal out of Texas is no longer viable.

The company had planned to ship 1.5 - 2.5 million tons of coal out of the facility every year. Its decision to pull out is latest in a string of roughly half a dozen planned terminals that have been tabled or scrapped in the last year.

The federal government is getting ready to issue its first eagle-take permit for a wind power project in Wyoming. 

Normally, killing eagles is illegal. But the five-year permits allow wind companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty.

The Power Company of Wyoming hasn’t actually applied for a permit for its Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project in Carbon County yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started asking for public input in anticipation that it will.

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