CASPER — Wyoming Refining Co.’s oil refinery is situated literally on Main Street in Newcastle and a mere half-mile away from Newcastle High School. The school is equipped with a “panic button” that shuts off all ventilation in the building in the event of a toxic spill. Given its close proximity, refinery officials are required […]
America’s No. 2 coal-producer, Arch Coal Inc., announced last week that it paid $25 million to acquire 38 percent interest in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC, one of dozens of companies scrambling to boost coal export capacity from the West Coast to customers in Asia.
With the Millennium Bulk deal, Arch joins Peabody Energy Corp. — both major producers of Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming — in banking on the Asian coal market for growth. Wyoming coal producers Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy and railroads Union Pacific and BNSF Railway have all expressed interest in boosting coal exports from the West Coast.
Wyoming coal producers fared well during a tumultuous year for the industry nationwide, increasing output by an estimated 2.6 percent in 2010. It’s a modest recovery in production, after slipping 7.8 percent in 2009. Wyoming’s year-to-date coal production as of December 25 was 434 million tons, and the industry was on track to finish the year at 442.5 million tons, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
Representatives from the University of Wyoming and its industry partners in the Wyoming Carbon Underground Storage Project are studying the viability of injecting billions of tons of carbon dioxide — a potent greenhouse gas — into saline formations deep within the Rock Springs uplift, several miles east of Rock Springs. Ron Surdam, director of the University of Wyoming’s Carbon Management Institute, says the ability to inject large quantities of CO2 underground for permanent storage is key to sustaining the $1.2 billion Wyoming receives in annual revenue from the coal mining industry. The project faces public skepticism, technical challenges and unresolved legal questions about who will take responsibility for leaks, contamination and accidents for the long-term, beyond the actual injection and monitoring period of several decades.
The dual pressures of climate change and ever-increasing demand for water has brought a new sense of urgency to a decades-old idea: to dam the Green River just upstream of the Warren Bridge in Sublette County, close to its glacial source.
But the idea still faces decades-old challenges. Studies by the Wyoming Water Development Office staff indicate that the cost of the project – which includes new and improved canal systems over difficult terrain – outweigh the economic benefits for the irrigators.