Engineering Future Ready Industries in Wyoming

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Nicholas Pierson
Vice President US North & West Operations Americas

Possibilities for coal’s carbon and chemical properties are expanding, revolutionizing the way in which we view this natural resource. A new carbon economy is on the horizon, and it is already proving to be a gamechanger in the United States, boosting the local economy in Wyoming.

Wood has partnered with the University of Wyoming (UW) School of Energy Resources (SER) and Atlas Carbon to design a coal refinery field demonstration project near Gillette, Wyoming. The site is being developed and operated collaboratively to create and showcase a sustainable coal refinery process as well as product technologies, at pre-commercial scale, using Wyoming Powder River Basin (PRB) coal.

UW SER’s Center for Carbon Capture and Conversion (CCCC) has developed a thermochemical process technology which integrates thermal coal solvent extraction and fast thermal-pyrolysis processing- a critical part of the carbon engineering program and the process around which this project is centred. The technology efficiently decomposes coal to beneficial liquids and solids that can be used in a variety of valuable, non-energy products such as building and construction materials, asphalt products, and agricultural soil amendments. To date, the state of Wyoming has invested over $30 million on such projects.

Engineering Future Ready Industries in Wyoming

“In the next phase of site demonstration, the pyrolysis portion of the technology will be installed to create larger volumes of coal char that can then be used to manufacture these products, with hopes to add the solvent extraction portion of the process in order to fully integrate the technology,” said CCCC Interim Director Trina Pfeiffer.

To kick off the project, Wood completed a Phase 1 engineering study for site works, as well as a corresponding feasibility study which integrated UW’s coal refinery technology to showcase a first-of-a-kind field demonstration. With ground-breaking now complete, the novel coal-processing technology site will be located adjacent to the existing Atlas Carbon, LLC activated carbon production facility at Fort Union Industrial Park, operated by Wood, allowing the operations insight, coal-handling preparation expertise, and safety capabilities of the Wood team to be leveraged on both sites. The Wyoming Innovation Center is also located nearby, making this an ideal location for field demonstrations.

“Our team has had immense success working with Atlas Carbon to upgrade their activated carbon production facility and improve operations and safety initiatives on site. We’re excited to grow this relationship further by taking the next step as we work together in a new partnership with University of Wyoming. Our teams have world class engineering and operations experience, and we are ready to help drive forward a new carbon economy in the state,” said Nicholas Pierson, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance at Wood.

Frank Levy, Atlas Carbon CEO and Chairman said, “The new pilot facility will enable Atlas Carbon’s continued improvement of activated carbons produced from high-quality coal as a feedstock. Many of our products are currently used for air and water purification, but this project showcases the beginning of many more possibilities for Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming.”

Upon completion, this coal refinery field demonstration project will help to lead the way in the evolution of a new carbon economy, showcasing the variety of possibilities derived from Powder River Basin coal to potential industry and commercial stakeholders while boosting Wyoming’s economy as the state revolutionizes carbon management.

“We are proud to continue and grow our presence in Wyoming, at the heart of the Powder River Basin, supporting the state in this innovative process of turning coal into valuable nonenergy products. This collaboration with University of Wyoming and Atlas Carbon aligns with Wood’s pursuit of future-ready, innovative technology and complements our ongoing research with the university to develop additional industry solutions,” said Pierson.

Wood is fully committed to helping clients meet their carbon management and carbon commitment goals. With our extended scope of solutions and strong industry base, we have a broad view across the value chain for energy, resources, and manufacturing. The current pace of change in technologies, like those that the University of Wyoming School for Energy Resources’ Center for Carbon Capture and Conversion are bringing to life, is transforming how our world operates in the most innovate and unexpected ways. Wood is proud to create and foster partnerships like this one with UW and Atlas Carbon around the globe, using our expertise to help navigate the challenges of carbon management while building successful, sustainable facilities across industries.

To learn more about Wood’s carbon management work click here. To view our carbon commitment, click here.

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