A single drilling rig is working in an area close to the Coal Creek Station Power Plant, and the Blue Flint Ethanol plant, both north of Washburn.
But it’s not drilling for oil.
Instead, it is taking core samples from the area, to see if carbon dioxide can be stored there.
"We are striving to produce a 'zero-carbon' fuel, to have zero-effect on the environment," said Midwest Ag Energy CEO Jeff Zueger, speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project.
Midwest Ag Energy owns both the Blue Flint plant, and the Dakota Spirit plant, near Jamestown. Both are co-located near coal fired power plants, and both use steam from those plants in the ethanol production process.
"This project will enable the biogenic CO2 that we produce at Blue Flint Ethanol to safely be stored below ground, for long-term storage."
Zueger said the plan is to store 200,000 tons of CO2 underground each year.
It’s one of a few CO2 storage projects in North Dakota. Some of the funding for it comes from the Lignite Research Council, which is interested in storing CO2 from power plants underground.
"This is a big deal for the coal industry," said Lignite Energy Council president Jason Bohrer. "To drill, and put CO2 into the ground, no mattter what the source is, is a big deal."
Zueger said it will be some time before it’s known if the formations underground will be able to handle CO2 storage. But he said he’s optimistic, based on preliminary testing at the site.
"All of that data so far has pointed to our ability to successfully store CO2 at this site," Zueger said.