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Industrial Commission OKs CO2 research project for Blue Flint Ethanol

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The state’s Industrial Commission has approved spending $3.4 million on a project to see if the geology around the Coal Creek Power Plant can be used to store carbon dioxide.

The project was proposed by Blue Flint Ethanol, co-located with Coal Creek. The ethanol plant uses the CO2 in its processing of corn.

The Lignite Research Council had approved spending the money, with conditions – including a “claw back,” so that if the project didn’t work, the money would be refunded. The Industrial Commission tabled its approval, sending it back to the LRC. Subsequently the LRC approved it without that contingency, and the Industrial Commission gave it the go-ahead.

Coal Creek is scheduled to close in 2022. And some Council members are hoping this project may help Great River Energy find a buyer.

"This project, in and of iself, is not going to be a 'yes or no' on 'Do I want to buy Coal Creek and assume operations,'" said Lignite Energy Council executive director Jason Bohrer. "But it is a positive."

Gov. Doug Burgum chairs the Industrial Commission. He said North Dakota is poised to be a leader in finding ways to keep lignite coal viable.

"If anything, we're probably under-investing in R-and-D, because of the amount of money being spent to put carbon industries out of business versus the amount spent on how to innovate, and find new solutions," Burgum said. "This is innovation versus regulation -- and North Dakota can lead on innovation."

The total project cost is $7 million.

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