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EERC researching "rare earth elements" in lignite coal

Oct 26, 2020

The University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center has been doing the study of what are called “rare earth” elements in lignite coal.

Those elements are essential for such things as cell phones, batteries and other electronic devices. Currently, the US imports most of those elements from other countries, such as China.

"We are seeing we have high concentrations in coals, and lignite in particular," said EERC CEO Charles Gorecki. "And it's just identifying where they are, and working on how you extract them, and get them to a processing plant."

'Project Tundra' altering its focus

Sep 1, 2020
Minnkota Power Cooperative

The state’s Industrial Commission recently approved an additional $5 million to help fund a front-end engineering and design study for additional work on “Project Tundra,” the project to capture carbon dioxide from the Milton R. Young power plant near Center.

As originally proposed, the CO2 would have been stored in nearby geological formations, or taken by pipeline to western North Dakota for enhanced oil recovery. But that focus has changed.

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.

Minnesota-based Great River Energy will be shutting down its Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood in the second half of 2022.

Coal Creek went into service in 1979. It is North Dakota’s largest power plant, producing 1,151 megawatts of power from lignite coal.

Great River President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau called it an economic decision.

"Coal Creek Station is a safe, efficient and well-run plant," Saggau said. "However, it has lost value compared to other alternatives in recent years."

'Project Tundra' plans moving ahead

May 6, 2020
Minnkota Power Cooperative

It’s being billed as the world’s largest carbon capture facility.

“Project Tundra” is designed to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the Unit Two generator at the Milton R. Young power station near Center. It’s a joint project of UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, and Minnkota Power Cooperative, the plant’s owner.

Minnkota senior manager of external affairs Stacey Dahl said the project has several elements. First, the capture facility needs to be developed.

"It's essentially a big chemical processing plant," Dahl said.

North Dakota Burning

Mar 14, 2019

On this date in 1913, hundreds of thousands of tons of North Dakota coal was being eaten up by fires in undeveloped mines. Coal is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of North Dakota. But in 1913, a geologist estimated that the state had 32,000 square miles of coal fields containing 500 billion tons of coal. The coal fires had the state legislature alarmed at what they called the “wanton destruction” of a valuable state resource.

Energy Secretary Perry tours ND Coal Country

Aug 14, 2018
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is praising North Dakota for its innovations in energy.

Perry toured coal fields and power plants during a visit to the western part of the state Monday. Perry told a roundtable discussion following the tour – at the University of Mary in Bismarck – he was very impressed with the Coal Creek Station power plant and its co-located Blue Flint ethanol facility, which uses steam from the power plant to produce ethanol.

Long before North Dakota tapped its oil, there was lignite coal mining. And a century ago, the state engineer was tasked with inspecting those mines and building a report.

Tag your shovel day

Jan 30, 2018

During the Great War, many items were needed for the troops fighting halfway across the world. This put a strain on items back on the home front – so limits and strictures were placed on items such as foods, metal, and fuel. In a program to encourage conservation, on this date in 1918, North Dakota observed "tag your shovel day" in cooperation with the US Fuel Administration.

North Dakota’s coal regulatory and abandoned mine land programs have received high marks from the federal Office of Surface Mining.

The reports come from the year that ended June 30th.

The programs are under the Public Service Commission. Commission chairman Randy Christmann said the reports show North Dakota has a cost-effective program that doesn’t need any corrective action.