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Summer Field Program - August 11-16, 2003

Trip Summary

Following a six-year hiatus, the EMFI Government Field Program was reactivated in 2003 thanks to a grant from the Colorado Office of Energy Management and Conservation through the Colorado Energy Research Institute (CERI), which is managed by the Colorado School of Mines. These organizations recognized the value of the EMFI to those in the federal sector who participate in the various EMFI programs, as well as the benefits that accrue to the State of Colorado, CSM, and the energy and minerals industry. Hence, by providing the initial funding, they are hopeful that the EMFI will again be able secure sufficient financial support to conduct the full range of educational programs for which the EMFI is so well known.

The 2003 EMFI Government Field Program began on Monday, August 11, with a Welcoming Breakfast at the Golden Hotel in Golden, Colorado. Dr. Nigel Middleton, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Colorado School of Mines, first provided some welcoming remarks on behalf of CSM. Then Mr. Erling Brostuen, Director of the EMFI (retired), who had organized all of the site visits and prepared the bulk of the "Field Guide," provided a brief introduction to the contents of the Field Guide. Also introduced were Ms. Melody Francisco, who handled the logistical arrangements for the program, and Mr. Jim Proud, who would assist with the logistical details during the trip. Also present from the Colorado School of Mines was Ms. Marsha Konegni from the CSM Public Relations Office, who spoke with some of the participants and accompanied the group on the first site visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Mr. John Rold was then introduced. Mr. Rold, now a consultant, was previously the Director of the Colorado Geological Survey for 24 years and also has many years of industrial experience in the energy and minerals industry. Given that the geology of the Rocky Mountains is largely responsible for all of the energy resources to be discussed during the program, from the formation of the coal, oil, and natural gas deposits, to the topography which provides excellent solar and wind resources, it is essential that the participants become familiar with that geology during the trip. John provided commentary throughout the trip on the geology of the region, as well as a wealth of other information, including geography, history, agriculture, current events, and philosophy interspersed with John's special brand of humor!

Dr. Gary Baughman, Director of the Office of Special Programs and Continuing Education (SPACE) at CSM, then had each of the participants introduce themselves and identify their respective affiliations. The 2003 participants represented a number of federal offices, both Congressional and Executive, and also had a wide range of professional experience.

Dr. Baughman then provided an overview of the various operational details of the trip, ranging from the importance of punctuality and attendance at all scheduled activities, to the use of the "communicators" and the "All-a-Board," to the prohibition on cellphone use during the instructional portions of the trip.

The final introduction of the morning was Mr. Nick Jones, the bus driver from Gray Lines -- in whose hands we placed our lives for much of the remainder of the trip! Nick proved to be not only an outstanding driver, maneuvering the 47-passenger bus into places most of us would have had trouble driving our cars, but also a personable traveling companion on the trip.

At the appointed departure time of 8:40 am, the participants loaded onto the bus (their luggage having been loaded by the EMFI staff during breakfast) and headed for the first site visit of the trip - the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The NREL visit had been arranged by Ms. Kerry Masson, NREL Manager of Public Affairs. Ms. Masson's efforts were complicated by the fact that there were actually three groups of visitors at NREL on that day! The EMFI first visited the photovoltaic research laboratories and met with the scientists currently involved in the research, Larry Kazmerski and Sarah Kurtz. The next stop was the Outdoor Test Facility where Peter McNutt explained how the various PV installations are tested under actual operating conditions. The group then learned about biomass energy research in the Alternative Fuels User Facility from Michael Pacheco (Director of the National Bioenergy Center) and toured the Process Development Unit, guided by Jim McMillan and Dan Schell. A working lunch, compliments of NREL, provided the opportunity to learn more about NREL from John Kersten and Bob Noun. Then, Bob Evans, John Turner, and Mike Heben provided information on their research related to hydrogen production and fuel cells. Finally, Keith Wipke explained NREL activities related to the Freedom Car program.

We then loaded the bus for the short trip from NREL's offices to the National Wind Technology Center several miles north of Golden. Here, we received a comprehensive review of wind energy resources and technology from Mike Robinson. We then visited the testing facility where a vane from a large commercial wind turbine was being mechanically flexed for a period of months in order to evaluate its strength and resistance to fatigue failure. Driving past the wind turbines at the Center, Mr. Robinson pointed out the various different turbine technologies being tested.

Concluding the NREL site visit, the participants headed for Glenwood Springs for the evening. The trip through Clear Creek Canyon to Idaho Springs and the ride up I-70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel and Glenwood Canyon provided an outstanding opportunity for John Rold to acquaint the participants with the geology of the region. John provided a basic introduction to geology, though interestingly, there were quite a few geologists within the ranks of the participants on the 2003 program (though none questioned the veracity of John's remarks - at least those about geology). John also provided commentary on the various issues related to construction of I-70 and the natural hazards of the area (landslide mitigation, rockslides, floods, land use issues, etc.).

Arriving at the historic Hotel Colorado, the participants checked in and were then "on their own" for the evening. Some found interesting trails to run on, others located the local dining establishments, and many enjoyed the Hot Springs Pool.

The second day began at 6:30 am with breakfast in the historic Devereaux Room of the hotel. The bus was loaded and we headed for Somerset and Paonia, Colorado. The route took us down the Roaring Fork Valley to Carbondale and then the scenic Crystal River Valley past Redstone. John Rold provided interesting commentary on the geology of the area, the development history of the region, the former coal operations around Redstone dating back to the late 1800s and the nearby Yule Marble Mine in which the next Tomb of the Unknowns is now being quarried. Interestingly, one of the participants, Chris King, had lived and worked for a summer in this area. Going over beautiful McClure Pass, we began to drop down toward the town of Somerset, entering the Grand Mesa, Gunnison, Uncompahgre National Forests, for which EMFI participant Sue Spear is the District Ranger in the Paonia District. Sue gave us a "welcome" to her little corner of the world and provided a commentary on the community and the coal operations we were about to visit.

Arriving at the offices of Arch Coal Company's West Elk Mine, the EMFI participants were welcomed by Gene DiClaudio, the Mine Manager. The West Elk staff provided an overview of the longwall mining operations at the mine and an excellent safety training program. The West Elk staff had equipment already laid out for each EMFI participant and the safety training required each participant to demonstrate competence in using a self-rescuer. Breaking into two groups, half of the participants received a tour of the surface operations and an excellent presentation on the various technical land use issues related to the mine (access to additional leases, complications due to the Canadian Lynx habitat, identified Roadless Areas, the presence of natural gas associated with the coal, etc.).

Meanwhile, the other group went underground. Accessing the mining level via a vertical shaft, the group boarded diesel trucks and were driven back to the longwall mining operation. The participants then walked to the working face, where they stood under the hydraulically-operated shields and watched the two rotating drums mine the coal along the face. As the coal is mined and conveyed away, the shields are moved forward to support the roof above the mining operation and the unsupported roof behind the shields is allowed to collapse (a sound and sensation that has an unnerving effect on the uninitiated!). After emerging from the mine (a little dirtier than when they went in), the underground group rejoined the surface group, both groups enjoyed a lunch, and the process was repeated. The EMFI owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to everyone at West Elk for taking the time to host our group and do such an outstanding job coordinating the tours and candidly addressing all of the questions asked.

In order to expedite the day's activities, the folks at West Elk graciously allowed the presenters from Gunnison Energy to make their presentation at the West Elk facilities. Leading the presentation was Kathy Welt, Director of Environmental Affairs for Gunnison Energy. Gunnison Energy was formed to help develop the natural gas resources associated with the coal in the Oxbow Mine, also in Somerset. In an effort to capitalize on the presence of this gas, rather than merely attempting to vent the gas in order to facilitate the safe mining of the coal, Gunnison Energy intends to capture the gas with the intent of marketing it. The presentation dealt primarily with the company's efforts to complete its exploratory drilling efforts and its plans for commercial development, in the face of considerable local resistance (which Gunnison Energy believes is unfounded) and various governmental policies (which Gunnison Energy believes are onerous). Regardless of one's personal or professional views regarding these issues, the presentation made it abundantly clear that overarching government policies, mandated procedures, public perceptions, and corporate intentions (regardless of how noble or mercenary) can lead to major conflicts when it comes to energy production in the Rocky Mountain West.

After a tiring but exciting and rewarding day, the EMFI participants boarded the bus for the ride to Grand Junction, Colorado, for the evening. The bus ride provided an opportunity for additional discussions about the day's events and yet more information on the geology, geography, flora, and fauna of the region. The participants had a few minutes to freshen up before dinner in the hotel. Later that evening, participants broke up into various groups to reflect on their experiences, relax, or just get acquainted. Several folks also found out how far the hotel was from the saloon in downtown Grand Junction (a very long walk!).

Day three started at 6:30 am with breakfast at the hotel, with a departure at 7:00 am for a visit to the ChevronTexaco enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations at the Rangely (Colorado) Oil Field. Using CO2 pipelined from the ExxonMobil LaBarge gas plant in southwestern Wyoming, the Rangely Unit injects CO2 and water into the formation, thus enabling a greater percentage of the in-place oil to be recovered. Mr. Ron Wackowski first presented a review of the history of the Rangely oil field (one of the oldest in Colorado), the CO2 EOR process, and the long term environmental benefits to be provided by the sequestering of CO2. The EMFI participants traveled into the field to visit the production operations and learn more about the EOR process. Lunch at the ChevronTexaco field office provided an opportunity for the participants to get all of their questions answered and contacts established so that subsequent inquiries could be made.

The bus then headed west to the Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah. The participants had an opportunity to go through the Visitor's Center at their own pace and listen to presentations by the guides. Several hardy EMFI participants decided to go in search of the petroglyphs they had heard about in the area, so they headed into the desert (scenes like this in the movies normally end in disaster, but all ended well when the bus picked them all up at the bottom of the trail).

Next stop, the BLM office in Vernal, Utah, for a presentation on oil shale and tar sands (and gilsonite) by Jim Kohler from the Salt Lake City BLM office. Following the presentation, the participants went out to Asphalt Ridge west of Vernal to hear more about the tar sands deposits in that area and see one of the operations currently underway. Later in the week, the participants viewed a video on the bus about the large scale commercial oil sands operations in Alberta (which provide over 17% of Canada's oil supply). Clearly a different scale, but a similar resource (not yet a reserve in the U.S.).

Dinner was at the Stockman Restaurant, again a considerable walking distance from the hotel, but most of the participants enjoyed the cool evening air with a walk back to the hotel. Day Four began again at 6:30 am, and the bus pulled out at 7:00 am for the Flaming Gorge Dam and Hydroelectric Plant.

The 502-foot-high Flaming Gorge Dam houses three 36-MW generators. Following a presentation at the Visitor's Center, Warren Blanchard, the Plant Manager, and two other guides led the participants on a tour of the hydroelectric facility, permitting us to see all of the operations "up close and personal." While the reservoir was constructed primarily to control flow within the Colorado River Basin and meet all contractual obligations with downstream states and Mexico, the electricity generation capability and the recreational benefits are also important aspects of the project which require close management and supervision.

The drive between the dam and Rock Springs, Wyoming, provided not only dramatic panoramic views, but also an opportunity for the participants to gather with their "evaluation panels" and conduct their evaluations of the trip to date.

The first stop in Wyoming was the Jim Bridger Coal Mine at Point of Rocks, 30 miles east of Rock Springs. The first requirement at the mine (after the bathroom break), was an interminably long safety presentation regarding the various hazardous materials which we might conceivably come into contact with during our visit to the mine. Following that presentation, Paul Gust, Safety Director, provided an excellent review of the operations at the mine, and the participants boarded the bus for a tour of the mine. With our guide, Jim Johnson (CSM '77), the first stop was at a site where a new mining technique was being used to mine additional coal in the highwalls. A second stop provided an opportunity for the participants to see the operation of a dragline which is used to remove the overburden from the coal seam prior to mining. Following the mine tour, the group headed back to Rock Springs for the evening.

Friday morning began with breakfast, followed by a presentation at the hotel by Anadarko Petroleum. Mr. Rick Robitaille, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs for Anadarko, introduced the participants to Anadarko's international and domestic petroleum operations, with an emphasis on the company's new initiative to develop coalbed natural gas reserves in the Wamsutter area east of Rock Springs. In addition to a summary of the technology to be used, the presentation emphasized the governmental policies and procedures related to Anadarko's efforts. Together with Neil Labbe and Martin Talbott, Mr. Robitaille identified a number of policies which he felt were restrictive and, from his perspective, hindered Anadarko's (and, hence, the nation's) access to these potential energy supplies. This led to a very lively discussion with and among the EMFI participants. Once again, it became clear that there are many points of view regarding the many land use issues surrounding energy development in the West.

Following lunch, the EMFI program headed east to the Pacificorp Bridger Power Station, immediately adjacent to the Jim Bridger Coal Mine we had visited the day before. All of the output from the Bridger Mine goes to the Pacificorp Bridger Power Station via a conveyor. In addition, coal from other area coal mines is used to provide sufficient fuel for the Power Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the U.S. Bob Arambel, the Plant Manager, provided a comprehensive overview of the operations at the plant during in introductory session. There were many questions from the participants regarding the U.S. power grid, as the blackout in the Eastern U.S. had occurred just the previous evening.

The participants were divided into four smaller groups, each with a guide and each visiting a different boiler unit. Each tour involved closeup visits to the coal pulverization area, several levels of the boilers, a discussion of the gas cleanup processes, and a tour of the control room. Our thanks to all of the hosts and guides at the power station for their willingness to provide such a comprehensive tour of the facilities.

The bus then departed for the 'scenic' drive to Laramie, Wyoming. Fortunately, the ride was made more interesting by the geologic descriptions provided by John Rold, and John's personal stories of his days working in this area (can you picture John dancing to the Glenn Miller orchestra out here?). The last night in Laramie provided an opportunity for the participants to enjoy one last fling together, and stories about the mechanical bull will be told for many years around the campfires on Capitol Hill!

Saturday, the last day of the program, began with breakfast at the hotel, then loading up the bus for the drive to the Ponnequin Wind Farm operated by Xcel Energy. The wind farm is located on the plains just southeast of Cheyenne, Wyoming, on the Colorado/Wyoming border. Our guide, Andy Sulkko provided a most thorough description of the site as the participants stood immediately below the line turbines. Even though there seemed to be little wind blowing on Saturday morning, most of the turbines were turning, though not generating very much power at that particular time.

The final stop on the tour (except for those folks who arranged to leave the program at the wind farm) was lunch at Johnson's Corner, a popular (and world famous!) truck stop along I-25. Leaving Johnson's Corner ahead of schedule (much to the appreciation of participants with afternoon flights), the bus arrived at Denver International Airport about 25 minutes ahead of the projected arrival time, dropping off those participants headed back home that day. The bus then returned to Golden, dropping off several additional participants and the EMFI staff.

Based on the evaluations received to date, the 2003 EMFI Government Field Program was an unqualified success. Thanks to the support of the Colorado Office of Energy Management and Conservation and the Colorado Energy Research Institute, the 2003 EMFI provided an excellent opportunity for key decisionmakers from the federal sector to learn more about energy development in the West, and laid the groundwork for re-establishing the EMFI as the preeminent energy and minerals field program in the U.S.

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