Economic development organization denied funds for coal research and diversification project

Energy Capital Economic Development (DEPE), a Gillette nonprofit, had its federal Build Back Better funding proposal turned down this week.

The proposal titled “Move Wyoming Forward” requested $ 500,000 for a Coal Product Technical Assistance grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) that would have provided additional funding for several projects at the Wyoming Innovation Center, a research center. and coal diversification facility located north of Gillette.

ECED CEO Phil Christopherson said he didn’t know why their proposal was turned down.

“It was interesting that none of Wyoming’s four proposals were successful“He said.” Some people say, ‘Oh, that was a political decision. I have no idea, I just don’t know what could have been the reason. “

Although the proposal was unsuccessful, Christopherson said the organization’s plans and projects will continue and will not depend on the EDA grant. This includes the Wyoming Innovation Center north of Gillette, which is scheduled to open on January 31.

Christopherson said the purpose of the facility is to research other uses for the coal.

“We have been working on the idea of ​​advanced carbon products for a number of years,” he said. “[We’ve been] work with [the] University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources to take coal and use it for new things: graphene, carbon fiber, activated carbon, a whole host of things. “

The hope is that these products will eventually hit the market.

“Whether it’s some sort of coal refinery or a methodology of taking coal through research that has already been done and turning it into products that can be commercially viable and commercially profitable.” , said Christopherson.

The denial of the grant also offered other advantages for the ECED.

“Through the grant process, when writing the grant, we were able to form very good partnerships with a few national organizations,” he said. “And I think that’s going to help us in the long run – and so the opportunity has helped us.”

Wyoming’s other three grant proposals came from the University of Wyoming, the City of Cheyenne, and the Wyoming Energy Authority.

Even with the denial of the grant that would have funded several projects more fully, there is optimism as to what the future may hold.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t receive it, but taking a step back we were making good progress as we were without the grant,” said Christopherson. “And we will continue to make good progress without the grant.”

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