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Basin Electric GM: 2020 has been a 'challenging' year

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The general manager of Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative said 2020 has been a challenging year.

Paul Sukut told the Basin annual meeting the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll.

"We immediately saw the fall in prices, as everybody did," Sukut said. "That meant natural gas, that meant oil, some of the chemicals produced at the Synfuels Plant. We immediately saw a drop in our loads, particularly in the Bakken -- as much as 400 megawatts."

But Sukut said the load is coming back – slowly.

"Now they're back to where they were -- probably -- prior to COVID coming along," Sukut said. "I think you're going to see more of a slow growth in terms of what's coming on in the coming months, maybe in 2021."

Sukut said Basin cut its budget by about $40 million. But he said efficiencies have meant the co-operative is still operating efficiently.

Sukut also told the member co-ops during the "virtual meeting" Basin still believes in an “all of the above” strategy when it comes to power generation.

Sukut said Basin is working on finding new sources of power, while still relying on its coal generation fleet.  He said Basin is now looking at sources that are low-carbon or no carbon emissions.

Sukut said everyone will need to come to the same conclusion – that there will be a carbon-constrained world.

"We're working with some of the producers -- Bakken Midstream -- trying to see if there's a way we can take some of the energy that's being flared off of wells, and using it in a natural gas turbine, to use it for power for our growing load," Sukut said. He also said Basin is exploring solar power.

Basin also has a number of wind turbines.

At the same time, Sukut said Basin has been working on a carbon-capture project at its Dry Fork power station in Wyoming.

"We are demonstrating about five different technologies that would extract carbon from the flue, or the back end of the plant," Sukut said. "At the same time, the 'Carbon Safe' people are drilling wells for the potential storage of the CO2."

Sukut said if the technology works, Dry Fork will be one if the cleanest coal plants in the country.

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