flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

A new Innovation Center in Wyoming focuses on finding sustainable ways to use coal

Industrial Facility

A new Innovation Center in Wyoming focuses on finding sustainable ways to use coal

The 10-acre site is part of the area’s R&D push.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | June 17, 2022
A front view of the Wyoming Innovation Center.
The 5,500-sf Wyoming Innovation Center in Gillette will focus on research into noncombustible applications of coal. Images: Energy Capital Economic Development

The future of coal as a major energy resource is fraught with uncertainty, given coal burning’s detrimental impact on the environment. Coal accounted for more than two-fifths in the overall growth of CO2 emissions last year, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion tons, according to the International Energy Agency, to say nothing of the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides each ton of coal burned produces. As of mid 2020, renewables surpassed coal as the second most-used electricity source in the U.S., behind natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“The phasing out of coal will … be fundamental to meet net-zero goals by 2050 globally. As highlighted by the IEA, all unabated coal needs to be phased out by 2040 to be on track to achieving net zero by 2050,” states the World Economic Forum.

EIA estimated last October that there’s more than 250 billion short tons of recoverable coal in the U.S. (A short ton is equivalent to around 2,000 lbs.) How much of this asset gets spent ultimately could depend on finding ways to use coal that are less toxic to the environment and populations, as well as politically and socially acceptable.

About 165 billion tons of that recoverable coal are in a region in Wyoming’s Campbell County called Carbon Valley, which is where the Wyoming Innovation Center held its grand opening earlier this month. The 9.5 acres that the 5,500-sf innovation center sits on in the town of Gillette were once an active coal mine that was converted into an industrial park. The Innovation Center’s mission is to provide a home to companies and researchers developing products using coal and coal byproducts.

NONCOMBUSTIBLE ALTERNATIVES

“The primary focus will be creating noncombustible uses for coal, first on a benchtop scale and then commercially,” explained Ben Reeves, Project Manager and Architect for Arete Design Group in Sheridan, Wyo., the architect on the Innovation Center. BD+C interviewed Reeves with Micky Shober, Project Superintendent with Powder River Construction, the Innovation Center’s general contractor.

The Innovation Center will also home in on extracting pivotal rare earth elements found in fly ash of coal burned at local power plants.

Reeves spoke specifically about Carbon Capture Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) as one possible area of research. Shober suggested that oxygenation to burn coal more cleanly, and producing tar-like oil from coal for asphalt paving, could be other research avenues.

PART OF A BIGGER R&D PICTURE

 

The Innovation Center includes a materials handling and seven open-air test pads.
The Innovation Center includes a building for offices and labs, a second building for materials handling, and seven open-air test pads.
 

The Innovation Center is a relatively simple structure: a metal building on a concrete foundation. The design is basic, too, because “we don’t know yet what the innovators will use the space for; there’s no template,” said Reeves. (The building’s first tenant is the National Energy Technology Laboratory. And news reports have stated that the University of Wyoming is interested in renting space for at least three projects.)

The Innovation Center is among several projects that are exploring new options to address the lifecycle of carbon, including the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources’ CarbonSAFE project, the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, which opened in 2018 and has been testing CCUS technologies using 20 MW of actual coal derived from flue gas.

“The Innovation Center is further solidifying the Carbon Valley as an R&D hub,” said Phil Christopherson, CEO of Energy Capital Economic Development (ECED), the Innovation Center’s owner, who has been working on this project since 2015. “It will connect our workforce, provide a cleaner environment and ultimately strengthen our economy and community.”

The Innovation Center itself consists of several components: there’s a 4,000-sf building for offices and labs. Another 1,500-sf building is for materials handling and processing. Outside there are seven large open-air pads with power and water available. The site also has a small water pump house.

Reeves pointed out that another advantage of this site is the six-inch high-pressure gas line that runs through the property.

TARGETING A BROAD TENANT BASE

 

The facility offers seven pads that include power and water infrastructure.
The facility includes seven open-air testing pads with power and water infrastructure. The property also has a high-pressure gas line running through it.
 

Reeves singled out Jim Ford, an energy and industry advisor for Campbell County, as being instrumental in helping the design and building team make decisions about the project. Reeves and Shober also praised ECED for, in Reeves’ words, “drumming up” interest in the project, both locally, statewide, and beyond. The project received a $1.5 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, a $1.46 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and other funding from Campbell County and the city of Gillette.

Reeves and Shober expected the Innovation Center to draw entrepreneurs and researchers from outside the state.

Related Stories

Industrial Facility | Jul 26, 2022

As industrial sector sizzles, investors watch impact of inflation and interest rates

Demand continues to top supply, especially on the coasts, according to latest CommercialEdge report.

Urban Planning | Jul 19, 2022

The EV charger station market is appealing to investors and developers, large and small

The latest entry, The StackCharge, is designed to make recharging time seem shorter.

Multifamily Housing | Jun 21, 2022

Two birds, one solution: Can we solve urban last-mile distribution and housing challenges at the same time?

When it comes to the development of both multifamily housing and last-mile distribution centers, particularly in metropolitan environments, each presents its own series of challenges and hurdles. One solution: single-use structures.

Industrial Facility | May 19, 2022

A steady increase in new self-storage space is meeting growing need in large metros and their suburbs

Rent Café’s study projects a 9 percent bump in the nation’s existing inventory.

Adaptive Reuse | May 18, 2022

An auto plant in Detroit to get a retread as mixed-use housing

Fisher 21 Lofts could be the largest minority-led redevelopment in the city’s history.

Industrial Facility | Apr 30, 2022

CapRock Partners taps into industrial space demand

The investment firm is committed to building 15 million sf of warehouses.

Industrial Facility | Apr 14, 2022

JLL's take on the race for industrial space

In the previous decade, the inventory of industrial space couldn’t keep up with demand that was driven by the dual surges of the coronavirus and online shopping. Vacancies declined and rents rose. JLL has just published a research report on this sector called “The Race for Industrial Space.” Mehtab Randhawa, JLL’s Americas Head of Industrial Research, shares the highlights of a new report on the industrial sector's growth.

Industrial Facility | Apr 6, 2022

Development underway for Missouri’s largest logistics park

Hunt Midwest envisions 27 buildings will be completed over the next 10 years.

Industrial Facility | Apr 1, 2022

Robust demand strains industrial space supply

JLL’s latest report finds a shift toward much larger buildings nearer urban centers, which fetch higher rents.

Sponsored | BD+C University Course | Jan 24, 2022

Design and construction of cannabis facilities

Industry experts offer advice on what it takes to design and build cannabis facilities.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category




halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021

 


Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: