2021 should be dubbed the Year of Carbon Capture in North Dakota.
The technology took a step forward this year when state regulators cleared the state’s first project to capture carbon dioxide from an industrial facility and store emissions underground in the state. Many other projects are underway.
The effort at Richardton Red Trail Energy’s ethanol plant is the first that is expected to pay off in North Dakota. CEO Gerald Bachmeier predicts the facility will begin capturing and injecting its carbon emissions thousands of feet deep by mid-March 2022.
The project will allow Red Trail to better market its ethanol to states like California that have policies favoring low carbon fuels. A federal tax credit advances carbon capture efforts. Proponents of the technology see it as a way to fight climate change because less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.
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Other carbon capture projects may not be far behind Red Trail. Regulators held a hearing this fall for the Minnkota Power Cooperative’s Tundra project at the Milton R. Young Station coal-fired power plant near Center. The new owners of Coal Creek Station are also planning a carbon capture system at the coal-fired power plant near Washburn. Other projects are underway led by companies such as Midwest AgEnergy, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Denbury Resources and Summit Carbon Solutions.
Another carbon capture system is planned by Bakken Energy, which this year announced plans to buy the Great Plains synthesis plant near Beulah from Basin Electric Power Cooperative and reuse it to produce hydrogen at from natural gas.
Carbon capture plans dovetail with the goal Governor Doug Burgum unveiled at the Williston Basin Petroleum conference in May to make North Dakota carbon neutral by the end of the decade. He told the audience that the state had “hit the geological jackpot” with rock formations that contain the right characteristics for permanent carbon dioxide storage.
Carbon neutrality is about finding a balance between the carbon dioxide released inside the state and the amount of emissions contained or offset in one way or another.
âWe will not achieve this goal with federal mandates or state regulations,â Burgum said. âThe only way to achieve this goal is innovation. “
A number of questions asked by environmentalists, landowners and others regarding North Dakota’s adoption of carbon capture: Will the technology work as intended? Will landowners be adequately compensated for the use of their land for carbon dioxide storage? How will large-scale projects in coal-fired power plants be financed? Would the state be better off focusing on renewables like wind and solar rather than trying to save coal?
Focus on coal
Other big coal developments took place in 2021. Subsidiaries of Bismarck-based Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp. announced in June that they would purchase North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant, Coal Creek, and the transmission line that connects the facility to Minnesota. The news sparked a sigh of relief in North Dakota coal country, as outgoing owner Great River Energy had planned to shut down the facility next year due to financial difficulties.
Rainbow is waiting for Minnesota authorities to approve a license transfer for the power line. The company has said in regulatory documents that it plans to connect 120 megawatts of renewable energy to the line by 2023. It also plans to install a data center near Coal Creek, as well as a carbon capture system at the plant, both of which would use a significant amount of electricity and free up more space on the line for powering other sources.
Coal-fired power plants face challenges in the face of competition from natural gas and renewables. The two coal-fired units at the Heskett station are expected to close in March 2022, and the company will begin construction on a new gas-fired unit around the same time, MDU spokesman Mark Hanson said. Otter Tail Power Co. this year announced plans to sell its share of the Coyote station near Beulah by 2028.
The tension around wind power in the coal country came to a head when the Legislative Assembly convened earlier this year. In the end, lawmakers passed several bills aimed at helping the coal industry, including giving tax breaks to power plants. They also created the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority, which recommends projects for state grants and loans.
Other energy news
The extreme cold that hit the central United States in February caused power outages across the country, including in North Dakota. This influenced the energy debate in the Legislature and continued to be a topic of discussion at meetings of the North Dakota Utilities Commission, which regulates utilities owned by investors in the North Dakota. State.
Lawmakers met again in a special session this fall and allocated $ 150 million in federal stimulus funds to help pay for natural gas infrastructure, including a trans-state pipeline that would carry gas from the fields. Bakken oilfields in eastern North Dakota. Potential developers prepare applications for the project.
North Dakota’s oil production hovered around 1.1 million barrels per day year round in 2021. It has recovered somewhat since the coronavirus pandemic caused an industry downturn in 2020 , but it has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels of 1.5 million barrels. per day in the state.
State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said uncertainty surrounding the Biden administration’s plans for federal leases, emissions and the Dakota Access Pipeline “is causing” the oil industry to recover.
âWe have seen a fairly decent recovery from the extremely low number of fracking rigs and crews that we saw around this time a year ago,â he said during his monthly press briefing. early in December. “I think we expected a faster recovery than what we’ve seen, so it’s a bit worrying.”
The North Dakota Oil and Gas Division continued its abandoned well plugging and cleanup program, which it began in 2020 using federal pandemic stimulus money. The effort will likely span a number of years now that the state can tap into more federal funds recently authorized by the infrastructure bill that was passed by Congress this fall.
2021 marked the sixth year that the fight for the Dakota Access Pipeline made headlines in North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers is working on a new environmental review of the pipeline as the legal battle continues. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in early 2022 on whether to hear the case filed years ago by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which fears pipeline pollution. Developer Energy Transfer maintains the line is safe.
Another pipeline problem hit the courts in 2021 when federal and state officials announced the result of a multi-year investigation into the largest oil spill in North Dakota history. Government officials have reached settlement deals with Summit Midstream Solutions, which will pay $ 35 million after its pipeline leaked nearly 30 million gallons of salt water in 2014 and 2015.
Contact Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or [email protected]