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Unruh: State may have a role in keeping Coal Creek open

A state senator from Beulah told an interim Legislative committee there’s a lot of concern in Coal Country about the planned closure of the Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood.

The plant’s owner – Great River Energy – has said it plans to close the plant in 2022, replacing it with wind power from Minnesota, as well as natural gas. The plant runs on lignite from the Falkirk Mine. And it employs a number of people in central North Dakota.

Great River said it had been looking for a buyer, but couldn't find one.

State Sen. Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah)  told the Legislature’s interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee there are efforts underway to try and keep it open.

"I belive there will be a role that the state will play, as we move forward with this project," Unruh said. "I don't think anyone quite knows what that is right now."

Unruh said research to be done by the Energy and Environmental Research Center at UND on “carbon capture utilization and storage” might help.

"That will be a very big piece of what it will take to keep all the facilities associated with Coal Creek Station up and running as we move into the future," Unruh said.

One of those pieces is the co-located Blue Flint Ethanol Plant, which uses the CO2 steam to produce ethanol. The research project is to see if CO2 can be stored, and used later for ethanol production.

The Lignite Research Council voted to approve about 45 percent of the more than $6 million project. But the LRC added a "claw-back" provision, so that if the site was abandoned, the money would be paid back to the state. But the state"s Industtrial Commission would not sign off on that provision, sending the matter back to the LRC.

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