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Lignite Research Council to evaluate three R&D proposals at its November meeting



Three separate lignite research and development (R&D) projects will be evaluated at the next meeting.


The R&D projects seeking funding support from the state of North Dakota are:


Pre-FEED study for CO2 capture at Coal Creek Energy Park – Great River Energy, a non-profit generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Maple Grove, Minnesota, is seeking a $4.2 million grant from the state of North Dakota. This sum would be matched by Great River Energy as part of an $8.4 million project to better quantify the costs, benefits and operational issues of integrating a system to capture and store carbon dioxide from the Coal Creek Energy Park, which includes both the Coal Creek Station and the Blue Flint Ethanol Plant.


Great River Energy is in the early stages of evaluating a potential carbon capture and storage (CCUS) project to determine if it is an economically feasible means of reducing carbon emissions at Coal Creek Station. The study would include five different objectives necessary to provide Great River Energy with information related to overall costs, benefits and operational issues and opportunities associated with integrating a carbon dioxide capture system.


The project is expected to take approximately one-year commencing in January 2020. The benefits to North Dakota include continued operation of the state’s largest lignite-based plant by identifying technologies that significantly reduce the carbon dioxide footprint in a cost-effective manner. In addition, the project’s technology and information development could benefit other lignite-based generating stations.


Wastewater recycling using a hygroscopic cooling technology – The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is teaming with Great River Energy and a product provider – Baltimore Aircoil Company – on a three-year study to reduce water usage at power plants. Hygroscopic cooling has been developed at EERC and would be demonstrated at a coal-based generation station to improve the plant’s overall water efficiency, thus reducing costs and the amount of water required for cooling purposes. While Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station will be the host site for the study, the technology would be applicable to all North Dakota power plants. The major source of money is a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The primary benefits to the state and industry is the reduced amount of water used by the power plants, which helps both with costs and reduced regulatory burdens.


PCOR initiative to accelerate CCUS deployment – The EERC – through its Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership – is working with partners in the lignite industry to secure $500,000 initially from the Lignite Research Council with another $1.5 million set aside for anticipated increased funding from the DOE. The goal of this project is to accelerate and facilitate the buildout of CCUS infrastructure in North Dakota and neighboring states. The PCOR Partnership includes the primary players in North Dakota’s lignite industry who have been working with the EERC over the last 16 years to validate the technical and economic viability of CCUS technology. This new project – which will be largely funded by the DOE – will benefit North Dakota by working towards monetizing recently passed Federal legislation that provides tax credits for energy companies to capture and geologically store CO2. This phase of the project is planned for a five-year time frame.


To be considered by the Lignite Research Council, the organizations promoting the technologies have to secure matching funds and team with companies actively involved in the lignite industry.


“The three projects offer potential benefits to the lignite industry and the state. All projects are thoroughly vetted before the Lignite Research Council and the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) considers them,” said Mike Holmes, vice president of research and development for the Lignite Energy Council and technical advisor to the NDIC. “We have three separate independent experts evaluate each of the proposals. Their evaluations, along with the proposals, are given to the members of the Lignite Research Council and NDIC for consideration.”


After the Lignite Research Council approves a grant proposal, it is then forwarded to the NDIC, which is comprised of the governor, the attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture, for their consideration of final approval.


The NDIC is a partner with the regional lignite industry in the Lignite Research Program. State dollars are leveraged with industry investments for research and demonstration projects. Since 1987 when the partnership began, the state has invested more than $60 million in lignite research funds. Total investment in more than 190-plus projects is in excess of $700 million.


The Lignite Energy Council is a regional trade association representing North Dakota lignite producers, electric utilities and more than 300 businesses providing goods and services to the mines and plants. The lignite industry generates approximately $5.7 billion in gross business volume annually within the state.

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