Day 8-Wednesday- Wind Farm
The final academic day of the trip was spent with a morning trip to the wind farm of PacificCorp, which actually rests on a reclaimed coal mine (14,000 acres). Everyone in the group was surprised by this fact. The 158 1.5MW turbines generate enough energy to power Casper, WY. Interesting tidbits about the wind farm is one turbine cost 1.8Million $ to build and the wind turbines kill very low amount of birds. However, due to the variable nature of wind, turbines cannot be the main source of energy unless energy storage drastically improves.
Day 7-Tuesday-Lost Creek Mine: Uranium
Tuesday trek began with a long drive to the Uranium mine, which is situated in its own basin. This unique geology creates an ideal mining situation because all the rain water never leaves the basin; hence, contamination risk is low. Additionally, the water before the mine began is non-potable for humans due the high contents of contaminants in the water. This uranium mine has roll front formations which creates a tricky layout out of the uranium subsurface. Lost Creek uses gamma and resistivity logs which finds uranium as well as its sister components then uses the more precise and arduous tool, Prompt Fission Neutron tool, to determine the layout of only uranium. Lost creek produces 2.5 to 4 drums of uranium per day which are shipped out in 50 drum truckloads. 1 drum is equivalent to 3000-5000$. Lost Creek Mine uranium at .53 ppm grade goes to national power companies only.
Day 6-Monday-Thermopolis (Hot Spring Visit), Dinosaur Museum, Waterfall
Thermopolis proved to be an interesting town with both a hot spring and a dinosaur museum. While we went only in the free 20 minute hot spring, it was definitely toasty enough. Of course, before leaving our group saw rock formations and as a bonus a herd of bison. There were no bones about it; the dinosaur museum was the favorite stop of the day, especially since the museum employed snarkiness and bad puns to make the displays interesting.
Day 5- Sunday- Medicine Wheel, Moose, Dinosaur tracks
Sunday morning started out with a circular route to include geology on the way to visiting the Medicine Wheel, which is a Native American tribal site. The trek to the medicine wheel proved an interesting journey as the ¼ of the path was through snow and many marmots and pikas were seen along the way. Enroute to the dinosaur tracks proved to be an exciting journey due to bountiful amount of moose lounging amongst the shrubbery. Alas the 70 mph speed limits prevented a good moose picture. The dinosaur tracks had a surprise in store, not only were the dinosaur tracks very small but also there was a ramp formation.
Day 4- Saturday-Geology of Big Horn Mountains, Geology of Wold Ranch
Saturday marked the trek of our group into the Big Horn Mountains, but first we checked out the canyon on Wold Ranch property. The geology of the Big Horn Mountains, which is nicely labeled as you drive, shows the different eras of rocks formation. There is a huge jump rock age where you can see the basement and the tensleep sandstone layers at one site, which perked up all the geologist/ geophysicists.
Day 3- Friday-Black Thunder Mine, Pictographs and Petrographs
Friday started off with a trip to a massive coal surface mine. The Powder River basin has many coal mines because of the abundance of organic sulfur. U.S.A burns approximately 1 billion tons of coal per year according to Black Thunder Mine (BTM). Some interesting facts that BTM shared is 95% of coal is not mine-able with today’s technology because the coal is too deep. BTM has about 1.2 billion tons of coal as recoverable reserves and load approximately 23-25 trains per day to ship out coal. Lastly, the most interesting tidbit is the lengthy reclamation process, which includes letting cattle graze for 5 years to show the environment is sustainable. Currently only 432 acres is completed, but thousands of acres are in the process of reaching the final stage.
Afterwards we headed back to the Wold Family ranch, where we went on a hike guided by Marla Wold who showed us Pictographs and Petrographs made by Native Americans.
Day 2- Thursday- Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission and Wold Ranch
First presentation of the day started at the Enhanced Oil Recovery Commission set up by Peter Wold where we were presented with an overview of Wyoming’s economy and energy business. Wyoming is quite affected by changes in the energy market due to its economy being 70% on energy (top producers are 1-gas, 2-coal, 3- oil), 15% tourism, 15% agriculture. Next presentation from the commission on how they regulate wells and permits and if a company goes bankrupt, the commission goes around and plug the wells. Lastly an interesting method of energy extraction is Underground Coal Gasification, which uses coal beneath the earth as a source for gas by lighting the coal ablaze, then capturing gas released to produce electricity.
Lastly I learned that for enhanced oil recovery, surfactant are too expensive to use and the EOR techniques alternate from water to gas flooding. Oil companies use tracers to map flow paths from injection to producer well but no other information is gathered at that stage. At the end of the day, our group headed to Wold Ranch, where Peter Wold graciously let us camp on their mini golf course and served us some great Black Angus beef from the cattle they manage at the ranch.
http://www.woldenergypartners.com/ (wold energy)
Day 1- Wednesday- Flight to Casper
Wednesday morning began the long trek to Casper consisting of 3 plane rides. 11 hours later, I arrived in Casper, where there were some nice bird-eye’s views of the Casper Mountains on the descent.