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Lignite Research Council agrees to jettison 'clawback' on CO2 project funding

Members of the Lignite Research Council have again expressed support for a research project on carbon capture and storage to benefit the Blue Flint Ethanol plant.

That plant is co-located with the Coal Creek Station power plant. That plant – owned by Great River Energy – is scheduled to close in 2022. The CO2 steam it produces is used to produce ethanol from corn.

The project is to test the geology of the area to see if would be able to support carbon storage. The project would cost $7 million, and $3.4 million would come from the Lignite Research Fund.

The LRC added a “clawback” provision – in that if the project ultimately failed, the money would have to be paid back. That recommendation went to the state’ s Industrial Commission – where a motion was made to remove the “clawback,” but a final vote was tabled – until the LRC could take another look.

Public Service Commissioner – and LRC member – Randy Christmann made the original motion for a clawback. But he told the LRC he would support the project without the contingency.

"This project is so vitally important to the state of North Dakota, it is something we can't let slip by us," Christmann said. "Even without the contingency, we need to do it."

Jason Bohrer of the Lignite Energy Council agrees.

"Does this increase the possibility that Coal Creek can continue to operate? Yes, it does," Bohrer said. "It doesn't guarantee is, but it increases that possibility."

The vote was 19 to fund, one against and one abstention. The Industrial Commission will discuss it again June 19th.

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