Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed an agreement that calls for cooperation between the state and a consortium of Japanese companies in researching clean-coal technology.
Wyoming has been hit hard by the downturn in the domestic coal market and the agreement aims to develop new export markets for the coal coming out of Wyoming.
The Associated Press reported that Mead signed a memorandum of understanding in Cheyenne with the president of the Japan Coal Energy Center. It represents about 120 manufacturing and energy companies, including Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd.
Mead said he expects a conference will take place in Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, within a year that would allow Japanese researchers to work on coal issues with researchers from the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources.
He said his administration does not want the state to just “be a leader in the production of coal, we want to be a leader in the solutions for coal here in Wyoming.”
Mead has been forced to cut the state budget in recent months because of falling energy prices and lower demand for coal.
The state’s attempts to push coal to the ports in the Pacific Northwest for export to Asia have been resisted by opponents in Washington and Oregon who are concerned about train traffic with dust, noise and possible environmental hazards plus the prospect of more global warming created abroad by coal-fired plants.
Mead said making progress in reducing emissions from coal plants could help Wyoming export coal to meet demand from Japan. He said the research will focus on cutting CO2 emissions through capturing it and using it to make other products.
“As we find solutions for Wyoming, the country and the world for coal — which is what we’re to do here — it certainly makes the lift for getting ports open in places like the State of Washington easier when we can point to it and say, ‘we’re not just making this ask, we actually are doing the heavy lifting in terms of trying to find solutions for coal,'” Mead said.
Osamu Tsukamoto, president of the Japan Coal Energy Center, said the consortium already is undertaking coal research and demonstration projects and expects the agreement with Wyoming will lead to useful information exchanges.
Coal-fired plants in Japan now get the fuel from Australia and Indonesia but want to tap sources from other parts of the world, he said.