North Dakota Leaders Approve First Carbon Storage Project in ‘Historic’ Milestone

The approval of Red Trail Energy by the North Dakota Industrial Commission marks a first step in the state’s mission to establish itself as a national leader in carbon capture and storage, a technology that has grown in popularity. momentum in recent years as a means of countering the emissions that fuel the climate. cash.

“This is a historic day,” Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms told state leaders at Tuesday’s Industrial Commission meeting.

Carbon capture and storage, a technology little used until now, involves extracting carbon dioxide molecules from emissions and injecting them into the earth, where they remain forever.

Red Trail Energy executives plan to inject the carbon dioxide generated as a byproduct of their ethanol production at a well site in Stark County, where the molecules would be stored more than a mile underground.

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Ethanol plants like Red Trail have sought to use carbon storage to take advantage of California’s clean fuel standard, while a federal tax credit has also attracted investment in carbon capture by many. many industrial and coal companies in order to make their activities cleaner and more economical for the long term.

Large-scale carbon capture projects can be expensive, with dramatically different costs for ethanol producers and for coal-fired power plants. Carbon capture at ethanol plants can cost tens of millions of dollars, while announced North Dakota coal-fired carbon capture projects, such as the Minnkota Power Cooperative’s Tundra Project, have estimated. total costs over $ 1 billion.

A growing number of ethanol producers and coal-fired power plants have announced carbon capture and storage projects in North Dakota in recent years, though none are as advanced as Red Trail.

North Dakota leaders note that the state’s geology could give it an advantage in a national market for carbon storage. While projects in nearly every other state must obtain federal approval to store carbon underground, North Dakota is one of only two with the jurisdiction to independently regulate the practice.

Helms noted that Red Trail’s projected annual injection of 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year is much smaller than the volumes forecast for some of the other projects underway in the state. The next project pending clearance, Helms said, has 20 times the storage volume of Red Trail, “and the one behind it probably twice that size, and the one behind it probably three times that size.”

“We are happy to start small,” he said. “These are drops, for an entry. ”

The Energy and Environmental Research Center, which led North Dakota’s research on carbon capture, estimated that the state has a total storage potential of up to 252 billion tonnes, enough to store US carbon output for 50 years. This estimate served as the basis for Governor Doug Burgum’s goal, announced earlier this year, for the state to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, an ambitious goal that will depend heavily on the success of capturing and storing the gas. carbon.

Helms noted that research into North Dakota’s regulatory jurisdiction for carbon storage began 18 years ago, the start of a long process that led to Red Trail’s approval on Thursday.

Readers can contact Forum reporter Adam Willis, a member of the Report for America body, at [email protected]

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