The Wyoming Innovation Center, a coal commercialization facility located in northeast Wyoming’s “Carbon Valley” region, announced Monday that it has been granted the ‘Overcoming Adversity’ award in the small division category by the Mid-America Economic Development Council.
The award recognizes a project or best practices a community, region or state utilized to overcome a challenge, such as budget, supply chain disruptions, covid-19 setbacks or natural disaster.
The 9.5-acre site is home to companies and researchers developing commodities like asphalt, graphene, graphite, agricultural char, carbon fiber and more — using coal and coal byproducts.
It features two buildings and seven demonstration sites for pilot plants, where private companies and researchers will work to advance coal-to-product and rare earth element processes. The region is a testbed for new and proven products produced from coal because of its 165 billion tonnes of recoverable coal.
The project received a $1.5 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council and a $1.46 million matching grant from the US Economic Development Administration. It also received funding from both the City of Gillette and Campbell County.
Facing challenges from covid, supply chain disruptions, weather, and other factors, the project was completed later than planned, but still within budget. The facility was completed in June 2022 with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by local, state and federal officials.
“Coal utilization is an essential component of Carbon Valley’s economy, so the completion of this project, although sometimes challenging, was imperative to our community and the industry as a whole,” said Phil Christopherson, CEO of Energy Capital Economic Development (ECED) in a media release.
“Despite budget setbacks and disruptions from supply chain the Wyoming Innovation Center team was determined to finish the project on time and within budget, which allowed for the successful opening of the center and, most notably, progress within the coal commercialization industry.”
Coal production and its workforce have seen a steep drop across America due in part to increased regulations limiting the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The Carbon Valley holds 165 billion tonnes of recoverable coal, which is tied to a robust mining workforce.
ECED developed the Wyoming Innovation Center to utilize this abundant resource and to sustain a mining workforce – all in a cleaner way.
“Our community is determined to create proactive solutions to maintain our coal industry and the Wyoming Innovation Center is the perfect example of this,” said Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell. “Carbon Valley’s sustainable coal-related projects will continue to pave the way for our economy.”
The 2022 award winners were recognized at the Mid-America Competitiveness Conference on December 2 in Chicago.