Great Plains Synfuels Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

The Great Plains Synfuels Plant is owned and operated by the Basin Electric Power Cooperative, through its for-profit subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company. It is located five miles northwest of Beulah, ND. The plant began operating in 1984, and has been owned and operated by Dakota Gas since 1988. It uses Lurgi gasifiers to gasify lignite coal and produce gases and liquids for carbon capture and byproducts like fertilizers and chemicals. The average daily production of synthetic natural gas is about 153 million cubic feet, the majority of which is piped to Ventura, lowa, for distribution in the eastern United States.[1]

The plant cost $2.1 billion to build, with 75% of its costs borne through government loans backed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which was pursuing coal gasification as a response to the 1970s energy crises. In the 1980s, energy was again widely available, and there was no need for the plant; the plant's private investors defaulted and abandoned the plant, which was put under the DOE. Dakota Gas' Basin Electric, however, had built the next door Antelope Valley Station in part to supply the Great Plains Synfuels Plant with electricity, and would therefore lose the Antelope plant as well if Great Plains shut down. So the DOE agreed to sell Dakota Gas the Great Plains Plant for only $85 million and a split of future profits, if any.[2] As of 2009, Dakota Gas has given more than $379.8 million to the DOE.[1]

When the plant's contracts with natural gas pipelines expired in 1995, Dakota Gas began focusing on coal gasification byproducts like fertilizers and chemicals. In 2009, more than two-thirds of the plant’s $400 million in revenues were derived from the sales of byproducts. The plant also focuses on providing CO2 for enhanced oil recovery in neighboring Canada, since the process of turning coal into gas makes it easier to capture the CO2 than at a conventional coal-fired electric generation plant.[2]

Dakota Gas captures and sells CO2 produced at the plant to two customers and transports it through a 205-mile pipeline to Saskatchewan, Canada, to be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the Weybum and Midale fields. The first CO2 was sent to Canada in October 2000. As of 2010, Dakota Gas exports about 152 million cubic feet per day of CO2 to Canada, which the company estimates is about 50 percent of the CO2 produced when running at full rates. As of Dec. 31, 2008, Dakota Gas has shipped an estimated 16 million tons of CO2. About 3 million tons of CO2 from the Synfuels Plant are sequestered annually.[1] The plant's CO2 infrastructure will also be used to transport the CO2 captured from the neighboring Antelope Valley Station, scheduled to be operational in 2012.[1]

Dakota Gas captures and markets byproducts and coproducts of coal gasification:[1]

  • Ammonium sulfate is an agricultural fertilizer marketed under the name, Dak Sul 45®. Approximately 110,000 tons are produced yearly by a flue gas desulfurization system.
  • Anhydrous ammonia is used as fertilizer for farming and as a feedstock for producing various chemicals.
  • Dephenolized cresylic acid is used in the manufacture of pesticides and products such as wire enamelsolvent, phenolic and epoxy resins, and antioxidants. About 33 million pounds are produced annually.
  • Krypton and xenon gases are used for specialty lighting, such as high-intensity lighting and lasers, and for thermopane window insulation. About 3.1 million liters of krypton-xenon are produced annually.
  • Liquid nitrogen is used for food processing refrigeration, as an oil well additive, and in chemical processes. About 24 million gallons of liquid nitrogen are produced each year.
  • Naphtha contains products that can be used as a gasoline blend stock, in making solvents, and in benzene production. About 7 million gallons are produced annually.
  • Phenol is used for the production of resins in plywood manufacturing in the casting industry. About 33 million pounds of phenol are produced annually.

Project Details

Sponsor: Great Plains Synfuels Plant
Location: Beulah, North Dakota
Type: Synfuels
Capacity:
Status: In operation

Financing

Citizen Groups

Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Case Study - Great Plains Synfuels Plant" Dakota Gasification, April 23, 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ronald Bailey, "Burning Money to Turn Coal into Gas" Reason.com, Sep. 17, 2010.

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