‘New Naughton’ plant aims to convert coal to ammonia

Kantana America President Jeremy Friesen, former Goshen County Commissioner and current advisor to Glenrock Energy F.E. “Wally” Wolski and Glenrock Energy Managing Director of Finance Matthew Coeny visited Evanston last week to talk about a “new Naughton project. (UINTA COUNTY HERALD/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The Uinta County Commission held a special meeting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, June 2, to hear about a proposed “new Naughton project” in Kemmerer.

Three presenters — former Goshen County Commissioner and current advisor to Glenrock Energy F.E. “Wally” Wolski, Kantana America President Jeremy Friesen and Glenrock Energy Managing Director of Finance Matthew Coeny — provided information on a proposed new facility to be built at the coal mine in Kemmerer. Officials said the project would bring hundreds of jobs.

Wolski told the commissioners that Glenrock wanted to make them aware of its plans, as Uinta County will be indirectly involved. 

Coeny said, “Glenrock Energy was formed in 2016 and is based in Casper. My family and I live in New York. Since joining the company in 2018, I have been spending a lot of my time in Wyoming. Glenrock Energy owns oilfields in Converse County and has proposed to implement carbon capture at a nearby coal power plant.”

When asked exactly what carbon capture is and how it is done, Coeny explained that a common method is called post combustion. Post combustion uses equipment at the power plant to remove carbon dioxide from the exhaust, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Wolski said, “A simple way of saying it is, you take the carbon dioxide and put it in the ground, where it results in more oil production. You can also sequester the carbon dioxide in saline reservoirs. Either way, the carbon is permanently and securely stored deep underground.”

Glenrock Energy plans to use an entirely different process in Kemmerer, Coeny said.

Friesen explained that the new Naughton project would include coal gasification. At the initial step, the process will break down the coal into synthesis gas, or syngas. This syngas will then be used to generate electricity and to produce ammonia.

All potential carbon emissions will be captured and permanently stored underground as part of the process. The ammonia will be easily transported to available regional markets on existing rail lines.

Uinta County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Rowdy Dean raised a concern about ammonia transportation and the risk of it being released in a train wreck. Coeny said they will be working with railroad representatives to ensure emergency response plans are in place.

In responding to a concern on water usage, Friesen said the new Naughton project will actually produce water as a by-product of the generation process. As a result, they will not compete for water rights with the proposed Natrium nuclear plant. He said other by-products of the generation process, including industrial gases such as argon, will be sold to other companies.

“We plan to bridge the gap between the existing Naughton coal plant being decommissioned and the nuclear plant becoming operational,” Friesen said. “Our target date to begin construction is as early as 2023, with a target operation date in 2026.”

Coeny said that the project has three main activities: coal gasification, electricity generation and ammonia production. The project will convert coal into carbon-free power and ammonia. 

Ammonia can be used as carbon-free fuel in existing coal powerplants, and those plants can eventually be transitioned to be totally ammonia fueled, Coeny said. Ammonia from the new facility could also be used as environmentally-friendly feedstock or agricultural fertilizer.

“Currently, the top two ammonia producing countries in the world are China and Russia; we need to be producing more of it here,” Coeny said. “Our goals are to reduce carbon emissions, produce reliable electricity, provide an on-going sustainable market for Wyoming energy and avoid devastating economic consequences from shutting down coal power plants and mines. We are building a clean energy complex in southwest Wyoming.”

Wolski said the processes will convert coal into valuable products and expand the economy.  They will build the facility at the Kemmerer coal mine and connect to the substation of the existing Naughton plant, which is scheduled to be decommissioned beginning in 2025.

“Think of it as a new power station,” Wolski said. “When Naughton quits using the coal, our new plant will start using the coal. We will use 2,000,000 tons a year and produce carbon-free energy. Converting coal into ammonia has to happen.”

The company is currently meeting with stakeholders, identifying partners and evaluating tax credit opportunities.

When asked how Uinta County would be involved, the three responded that the labor force will probably come from Lincoln County and surrounding counties. They suggested that nearby community colleges can provide training opportunities for a variety of job levels at the plant.

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