Why North Dakota coal is the last man standing

Aug 16, 2016
Amy Sisk

From Stan Burling’s house at the end of Main Street, it’s a minute walk to downtown Hazen in central North Dakota.

The street sports a thriving business community in this town of 2,400 with amenities like a drug store, an insurance company, a Chevy car dealer.

Power plants surround Hazen, along with the coal mines that feed them.

“They support the local economy,” Burling said.

About half the residents work in the industry, or in a related job.

“They buy their vehicles here, groceries, support the local retail businesses,” he said.

Basin Electric's power generation mix is changing

Aug 16, 2016

Basin Electric Power Cooperative said its sources of fuel to generate power have changed quite a bit since the year 2000.

Basin senior legislative representative Dale Niezwaag said in 2000, 85 percent of electricity generated by the co-op came from coal, with 10 percent hydropower, and the rest from oil, diesel and wind.

And by the end of this year...

"We'll have about 24 percent of our portfolio as renewable," Niezwaag said. "About 23 percent of that is wind."

The rest of that mix: 46 percent coal and 19 percent natural gas.

Courtesy EERC

An ethanol producer with a plant at Richardton will be working with the Energy and Environmental Research Center on a carbon capture project.

The Industrial Commission has awarded the project $490,000. That's half the projected $980,000 cost.

"When you make ethanol, it comes with a "CI" value, a carbon-intensity value," said Dustin Willett, the chief operating officer of Red Trail Energy. "The lower the "CI" value, the better it is for the earth, as well as from a marketing standpoint."

The CO@ comes from the ethanol fermenters at the plant.

Large wind farm project planned for Barnes County

Jul 21, 2016

A big new wind farm is proposed for Barnes County.

It would be 300 megawatts, and it would be called the “Glacier Ridge Wind Farm.” It would be on 34,450 acres about five miles northeast of Valley City. And it would consist of up to 87 turbines.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has just received the application.

Natural gas flaring ticks upward

Jul 18, 2016
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The flaring of natural gas spiked upward in May.

It’s back up to 11-and-a-half percent.

"There are a couple of reasons," said State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. "Natural gas production went up, and there was no additional processing or gathering capacity ready to take that up."

Production rose to 1,643,522 MCF per day, from April's 1,616,769 MCF per day.

Helms said the Hess Tioga gas plant ran only at 74 percent of capacity. He said that’s because of a delay in a project that would bring natural gas from south of Lake Sakakawea to that plant.

Wind farm in the Bakken under construction

Jul 5, 2016

It’s been several years since it was first proposed – but a 150 megawatt wind farm near Tioga is now under construction.

The Lindahl wind project will cost $220 million to build.

It will be owned by Enel Green Power North America. It’s Enel’s first North Dakota wind project.

"This project begain about eight years ago, with a group of motivated landowners who had an interest in starting their own wind farm," said Enel Senior manager of business development Conor Branch. He says in 2014, the landowners sold the project to Tradewind Energy, Enel’s development partner.

Helms: 'Brexit' may delay a recovery in the Bakken

Jun 29, 2016

Global markets are showing some uncertainty – because of the vote in England to leave the European Union.

Oil prices were not immune – dropping to under $50 a barrel.

What does that mean for the Bakken?

"It postpones these 90-day windows and 'price points' for the oil industry," said state mineral resources director Lynn Helms. "We're still solidly in the price window for work-over rigs that are working on the 1600 inactive wells. But it puts us further away from the price point that generates hydraulic fracturuing activity."

'Oliver III' wind farm approved by PSC

Jun 23, 2016
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The Public Service Commission has approved a 100 megawatt wind farm that will be in Morton and Oliver counties.

“Oliver III” is the third wind farm for  the area that will be built by NextEra. “Oliver I” and “Oliver II” are in Oliver County – while “Oliver III” will be almost completely in Morton County. The new wind farm will have up to 48 turbines. The price tag: $153 million. A new associated high voltage power line will cost another $11 million.

Western energy states see unemployment jump

Jun 21, 2016

Several western states whose economies depend heavily on the fossil fuel industry have seen major jumps in unemployment. Inside Energy’s Amy Sisk has more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Colorado’s unemployment rate went up significantly in May. Over the past year, rates in Wyoming and North Dakota grew faster than any other state. Plummeting prices for coal, oil and natural gas hit workers hard. In Wyoming.

Dave Thompson

North Dakota’s oil production continues to drop.

It took a relatively big hit from March to April.

But the news isn’t all bad.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms holds a monthly “Director’s Cut” briefing. The one today was for the month of April. He likes to have a theme for those briefings – and this month’s theme was…

“The good, the bad and the ugly.”