With carbon rule out, North Dakota still pursuing carbon capture

Oct 10, 2017

Lignite coal waits to be transported to a nearby power plant in Center, North Dakota.
Credit Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

With the Clean Power Plan out, officials in North Dakota say they are still committed to finding ways to capture carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.


They’re eyeing a project under construction in Texas to build a zero-emission gas plant, a small-scale version of the Allam Cycle outside Houston that’s slated to fire up next year.

This pilot project powered by natural gas will capture its carbon emissions and reuse some to generate electricity.

The next step is expanding it to a commercial scale to generate six times as much power.

“What we want to do up here is take the Allam Cycle and use it on coal,” Sen. John Hoeven said Tuesday in Bismarck at the Great Plains and EmPower North Dakota Energy Conference.

State and industry leaders say North Dakota is ideal because it already turns lignite coal into synthetic natural gas at Basin Electric’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah. The University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center is studying how the Allam Cycle would work here.

These clean coal projects are expensive. Earlier this year, a project in Mississippi was axed after it ran up a $7-billion price tag.

There’s a lot to learn from that project, said Bill Brown with Allam Cycle developer NetPower.

“We’re learning everything -- from metallurgy (and) we’re learning you don’t put a massive plant in place with lots of iron and concrete,” he said. “You’ve got to do a lot of things that they did not do, but they led the way.”

He said getting government support -- through tax credits or grants -- is crucial to make these projects work, adding that cost to build one of these plants should drop significantly once the technology has been developed.