Clean Coal, Rocks and Flour
Tuesday of this week, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) – challenged by North Dakota and many other power-producing states – had a day in court and I write this before the outcome is known. Last week, Minnkota Power and the Lignite Energy Council whisked me, some EERC people and a handful of other legislators key in ND energy issues to Houston, Texas for a two day tour. There were three basic looks at new technology that can make burning coal much more acceptable on display there: One is the Allam Cycle which will increase efficiency and capture nearly 100% of the CO2 – important to comply with the CPP. We toured the two acre test-scale facility of NET Power which is nearly completed. It will be interesting to see how it works next year. Our second tour was the Denbury Hasting’s Field where they are using CO2 captured from a coal plant which is piped to the oil field. They “flood” the oil area with CO2 which forces new oil to harvest. This is a field of traditional wells that had long ago been tapped and is a technology which could be used to go after older ND wells not horizontally drilled and fracked (that will take more experimentation). The third visit, on Tuesday, was to the Petra Nova facility which is a post-combustion carbon capture project installed on an existing coal-fueled power plant. This plant is so big it was equal to all of ND’s coal plants in power generated and NRG and JX Nippon are the entities building the unit which will take about 90% of the CO2 out of the slipstream of flue gas. It can then be used for either enhanced oil recovery or be sequestrated (stored beneath the ground). So, unlike an Allam Cycle unit, it is a retrofit. If Minnkota Power is to retain the usefulness of their Milton Young generating facilities, a Petra Nova type facility would need to be employed. Otherwise, those coal-fired plants dating back to the 1970’s could become stranded assets affecting not only electrical base load but also coal related jobs and their communities such as Center, ND. It is in our state’s best interest to find a way to make clean coal happen. These new technologies provide hope for our consistent electrical generation (wind and sun are intermittent), but we need time which the CPP does not provide.
On Monday, I attended the opening of the Laird Core Library at UND. A core (well drilling cores) library has been maintained at UND for many decades and with the Bakken boom we quickly were running out of space. Anyway, what happened was that Continental Resources studied these cores and began to understand what ND had for oil shale. It was asserted on the podium by a Continental geologist that our current oil supply and energy independence could be traced to this facility. There are millions of pounds of rock in this library, touted to be the finest in the USA and critical to the oil industry. Great staff made it happen, and they were recognized for their professionalism by the Executive and Legislative branches, the President of UND and others.
After the Governor and another nine or so speakers helped dedicate the new library, we all trooped over (about an hour late) to the ribbon cutting of the addition called the G Mill which makes our State owned Mill and Elevator the largest single site mill in the nation. They had a huge tent and the crowd had hung around for us government types to get there. The ninety year history of the mill was recounted with the pride and excitement of those connected to the mill palpable and energizing. Congratulations, North Dakota, we have two world-class facilities in Grand Forks celebrating new beginnings with very good people on staff! Senator Phil Murphy, ND District 20