UW gets $40.5M for carbon project

Award is largest in university’s history

CASPER — The University of Wyoming will receive $40.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a commercial carbon storage site in southwestern Wyoming, the School of Energy Resources announced Thursday.

It’s a big win for UW.

The federal funding, which will be given to the school over three years, is “our biggest grant award ever,” Fred McLaughlin, director of the Center for Economic Geology Research at the School of Energy Resources, told the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee shortly after the decision was made public.

The grant is part of $251 million from the 2021 Infrastructure Law that will be distributed by the Department of Energy across 12 carbon management projects in seven states.

“Thanks to historic clean energy investments, DOE is building out the infrastructure needed to slash harmful carbon pollution from industry and the power sector, revitalize local economies, and unlock enormous public health benefits,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

UW researchers will partner with Dallas-based Frontier Carbon Solutions to build the $50.6 million Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub.

It’s set to be the university’s fifth major carbon storage project in Wyoming and one of the first to be used at a commercial scale in the country.

The site is expected to sequester carbon from nearby trona mines — an industry that still relies heavily on coal — along with more novel initiatives.

A project intended to suck carbon straight out of the air could be one of them: Frontier Carbon Solutions is working with CarbonCapture Inc. to establish one of the world’s largest direct air capture facilities, Project Bison, nearby.

Three applications for injection wells are currently being considered by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, UW said.

Frontier Carbon Solutions did not respond to a request for further comment before this story went to press.

Wyoming leaders have been trying for years to market the state as a destination for carbon capture, utilization and storage projects. And they see the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub as an important step.

Holly Krutka, executive director of the School of Energy Resources, called the project “part of the foundation for deployment in the state and beyond.”

And UW President Ed Seidel said in a statement that the university “is proud to play a lead role in this important collaboration that not only marks a major advancement in carbon capture and storage, but also a significant boost for the state’s economy.”

This story was published on May 19, 2023.