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State and utility companies proceed with using game-changing technological innovation to update severely outdated power plant: ‘We will be forging a new path’

“We’re excited about this project’s potential.”

"We're excited about this project's potential."

Photo Credit: iStock

Coal is the dirtiest form of energy, but one state utility company is partnering with a technology provider to help transform a power plant that uses the highly polluting substance.

Power Magazine reports that South Dakota-based Black Hills Energy, which serves 1.3 million customers, will be working with the Ohio-headquartered Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) after the Wyoming Energy Authority awarded the duo $16 million to transition its state “from a traditional ‘mineral’ economy to a higher value ‘molecule’ economy.” 

Once the project is complete, the Neil Simpson Power Plant in Gillette, Wyoming, is expected to begin pumping out 15 metric tons (about 16.5 tons) of hydrogen every day using its already existing 90-megawatt coal-fired unit. 

B&W’s BrightLoop technology is what makes the initiative more environmentally friendly than many other forms of hydrogen production. 

According to the company, its proprietary “chemical looping” system can more effectively capture carbon dioxide created through the use of coal as a feedstock, sequester it, and turn the coal into hydrogen, a type of clean fuel that has also received significant attention abroad.  

As detailed by the U.S. Department of Energy, producing hydrogen may be one of the keys to “strengthen national energy security” and create a more “resilient” transportation system, as well as reduce air pollution that is negatively affecting public health and the environment.

One roadblock is the potential cost. However, B&W said its process “can produce low-carbon hydrogen at a cost better than current large-scale hydrogen generation technologies.” 

“We’re excited about this project’s potential. We’re committed to supporting the advancement of emerging technologies that create solutions for a reliable, cost-effective, cleaner energy future,” Mark Lux, Black Hills Energy’s Vice President of Power Delivery, said in a B&W press release.

Meanwhile, the state of Wyoming is poised to reap the numerous benefits of the project and may even provide a roadmap for other states to follow. 

An executive summary of the initiative revealed that Phase 1 led to “immediate job generation,” while Phase 2 and Phase 3 are expected to create even more opportunities, including in construction, operations, and maintenance. 

“Together we will be forging a new path for Wyoming’s and America’s clean energy future, helping combat climate change while supporting jobs in Wyoming’s energy industry,” B&W chief technology officer Brandy Johnson told Power Magazine. 

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