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Summer Field Program - August 9-14, 2004

Trip Summary

The 2004 EMFI Government Field Program began on Monday, August 9, 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. The participants were then welcomed by Dr. Dag Nummedal, newly appointed executive director of the Colorado Energy Research Institute (CERI) at Colorado School of Mines. 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.
Mr. John Rold was then introduced. Mr. Rold, now a consultant, was 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 2004 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. Charlie Drown, the bus driver from Gray Lines -- in whose hands we placed our lives for much of the remainder of the trip! Charlie 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. Charlie kept the group laughing throughout the trip with his collection of humorous hats.

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 and Mr. Gary Schmitz (EMFI Alum 2003) of the NREL Office of Public Affairs. The participants first visited the photovoltaic research laboratories and met with the lead scientist, Dr. Larry Kazmerski. 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. Rob Farrington then explained the research being conducted in the Ancillary Loads Reduction Lab, where a computerized mannequin ("Adam") simulates human physical responses to help develop improved heat reduction processes for automotive interiors. A working lunch, compliments of NREL, provided the opportunity to learn more about NREL from George Sverdrup and Bob Noun.

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 Bob Thresher and Mike Robinson. We then visited the testing facility where a blade 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. Thresher pointed out the various different turbine technologies being tested.

At the conclusion of the NREL visit, the group returned to the School of Mines campus for a presentation by Mr. Terry O'Connor of Shell Exploration & Production. His topic was Shell's current plan for producing shale oil from the oil shale deposits of Colorado using a patented in-situ process.

The participants then boarded the bus and 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 2004 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, rock slides, 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 some enjoyed the Hot Springs Pool.

The second day began at 6:30 am with breakfast in the historic Roosevelt Room of the hotel. The bus was loaded and we headed for Somerset, Colorado. The route took us down the Roaring Fork Valley to Carbondale and then through 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. Going over beautiful McClure Pass, we began to drop down toward the town of Somerset, entering the area of the Grand Mesa and the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests.

Arriving at the offices of Oxbow Mining Company's Elk Creek Mine, the EMFI participants were welcomed by Kathy Welt, Director of Environmental Affairs for Gunnison Energy. Mr. Jim Kiger and Mr. Jim Cooper of the Elk Creek staff gave an overview of the longwall mining operations at the mine and provided a safety training program. Breaking into three groups, some of the participants received a tour of the surface operations and a 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.). A second group learned about Gunnison Energy's initiatives to commercially produce methane from the coal seams.

The third group went underground. Accessing the mining face through a drive-in tunnel, the group was 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 rotating drum 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 groups and the groups rotated activities. The EMFI owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to everyone at Oxbow Mining and Gunnison Energy for taking the time to host our group and do such an outstanding job coordinating the tours, candidly addressing all of the questions asked, and providing lunch for the participants.

After an exciting and interesting morning at the coal mine, the group headed for Cimarron, Colorado and a tour of the Morrow Point Hydroelectric Station and Dam. 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. Arriving at the Dam, the group broke up into smaller groups and visited the inner workings of the station, including the control room, the generation area and the inlet and outflow areas of the Dam. Located about 20 miles east of Montrose, Colorado, Morrow Point Dam is located on the Gunnison River at the west end of the Black Canyon. It is the middle dam in a series of three dams in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, the other two dams being the Blue Mesa Dam to the east and the Crystal Dam to the west.

After leaving the dam, the bus headed for the historic mountain town of Ouray, Colorado. After dinner at the Outlaw Restaurant, the group checked into their rooms at the Victorian Inn.

Day Three started at 6:30 am with breakfast at the Main Street Restaurant followed by a trip over famous Red Mountain Pass. After a quick stop for a group photo, the bus continued on to Ignacio, Colorado, home of the Red Willow Production Company, which is owned by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Meeting in the impressive Tribal Administrative Offices, Ms. Barbara Wickman, President and CEO of the Company, gave us a presentation about the history, organization, and production of the company. Red Willow produces primarily coalbed methane on its reservation area in Colorado, but also has investments in numerous other production sites around the nation and the world.

At lunch in the Southern Ute Tribal Casino (no time to try our luck!) we were joined by Jenny McCarthy and Kyle Ehrlich, engineers with Burlington Resources, San Juan Division. After lunch, our Burlington hosts led the bus to a drilling rig about 20 miles out into the countryside. The group had the opportunity to climb on, in, and around a working drilling rig and ask lots of questions. After a thorough look at the drilling operation, the bus was led to a production site where engineer Hans Dube, also of Burlington, gave the group an overview of what happens to the natural gas that is produced and how it gets to market. The group had an opportunity to visit the location where the gas is produced, pressurized, separated from any oil and water in it, and sent into the pipeline.

Followingation, the group enjoyed an outdoor barbecue, compliments of Burlington Resources, in a nearby park on the San Juan River just downstream from Navajo Lake Recreation Area. Following the picnic, the bus took the group into Farmington, New Mexico to our motel for the night.

After an early breakfast (as usual) the next morning, the bus left the motel and headed west out of Farmington to the BHP Billiton Navajo Coal Mine about 20 miles southwest of the city. In the main office building everyone was treated to a 10-minute safety video, per regulations, and then, after signing the appropriate papers, everyone boarded the bus to drive out into the actual mining areas of the mine. At our first stop, Derek Dawson of the Navajo Mine, answered questions about a huge dragline at work removing the overburden on a section of land to expose the coal. This was followed by a stop near the electric railroad line which hauls the mined coal north about five miles to the power plant. No trip to a mine that used such huge buckets would be complete without a photo of the entire group standing inside a bucket. After the picture, we continued our journey through the mine and a quick stop was made for those who wanted to get a sample of coal to take with them. We ended our coal mine tour at the northernmost offices of the mine which brought us right to the Four Corners Power Plant.

 

In the offices of the power plant, we were welcomed by Marshall Plummer, Director of Public Relations and by David Saliba, Plant Manager. Mr. Saliba gave the group an overview of the plant which included a little of the history of the plant, the various owners, production capability, etc. Subsequently, the group divided into four smaller groups and toured the plant. After the tour, lunch was provided back in the plant offices. During lunch a question and answer session enabled many in the group to get additional specific information about the operation of the plant and plans for the future.

Soon it was time to head on to our next destination, Gallup, New Mexico, a Navajo cultural center along famous Route 66. Arriving in Gallup about 4 pm, the group was provided with an evening free of meetings and an opportunity to visit the town. Some dined at the El Rancho restaurant, a major attraction along Route 66; some shopped for Native American jewelry and art; and some of the group visited the Indian dancing exhibition in the center of town. This particular evening included a group of Hopi Indians dancing and playing traditional musical instruments.

The next morning found the group underway early again after a continental breakfast at the motel. Our host this Friday was Mark Pelizza, President of Hydro Resources, Inc., a company involved in producing uranium ore by means of in-situ leach mining. We visited a planned mining site about 15 miles north of Gallup. Mr. Pelizza explained the process, including advantages and problems faced. The bus then took the group to Crown Point, New Mexico to visit the office area and watch a presentation about the company and its future plans.

Leaving Crown Point, the bus headed east along I-40 to Grants, New Mexico. After a sumptuous lunch at La Ventana restaurant in Grants, the group headed a few blocks west to the New Mexico Mining Museum. At the Museum, the curator Van Smith, welcomed the group and explained a little about the history of uranium mining in the area. Breaking up into three groups, everyone had an opportunity to visit the rest of the museum and look at a number of Native American and mining artifacts. The lower floor of the Museum is a very realistic representation of a uranium mine, supplied with actual mining equipment from local mines.

After leaving the New Mexico Mining Museum, the group headed east to Albuquerque. After checking in at the Raddison Hotel, the group boarded the bus again to travel to the plaza in Old Town Albuquerque for dinner. Reservations were already made for the group at La Placita Restaurant. Arriving early, the group had opportunity to walk around the plaza, visit the shops, and buy some souvenirs. The restaurant is said to be haunted but the only spirits encountered came in glasses.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast in the hotel, the group boarded the bus for a short ride to the Rio Grande Nature Center for three presentations addressing the general theme of "Energy Development and Environmental Issues." Sterling Grogan, of the Central Rio Grande Conservancy District spoke on issues with coalbed methane development in New Mexico. Chris Wentz, Director of the Energy Conservation and Management Division of the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, spoke about renewable energy sources and plans. Lastly, Bill Brancard, Director of the Mining and Minerals Division of the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources spoke about a range of topical energy issues.

Following these presentations, the group headed by bus for the nearby Little Anita's restaurant for the last meal together. The group had to wait almost an hour to get served, but it turned out to be an opportunity for people to share their experiences with one another and to complete their evaluation questionnaires!

Based on the evaluations received to date, the 2004 EMFI Government Field Program was an unqualified success. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, the 2004 EMFI provided an excellent opportunity for key decision makers 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 US.



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