Lignite Research Council evaluates four R&D proposals at its May meeting

Four innovative lignite research projects will be evaluated at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, in the Senate/Chamber Room of the Bismarck Ramada Hotel by the Lignite Research Council – a review board comprised of representatives from industry and government organizations.

The four projects seeking funding from the state of North Dakota are:

  • Rare Earth Elements – Phase II – The University of North Dakota’s Institute for Energy Studies is teaming with Barr Engineering and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to continue its study of the technical and economic feasibility of extracting rare earth elements as part of North Dakota lignite mining. In Phase I, the project team identified locations with lignite-related materials that had richer levels of rare earth elements and a low cost, novel extraction process. The project would cost $3,427,500 and the proposal is asking for $280,000 from the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC). Other industry partners include North American Coal Corporation, Great River Energy and Great Northern Properties.
  • Applying Coal Fly Ash to Shut Off Water and Increase Oil Production in Williston Basin – The University of North Dakota is proposing a project to develop a technology of using fly ash from lignite-based power plants to control excess water production and increase oil production from western North Dakota’s oil fields. The project has the potential to offset a portion of traditional fly disposal. The project would cost $448,105 and the proposal is asking for $221,196 from the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC). Other industry partners include Basin Electric, which would provide fly ash, along with the Overseas Research Program of Northeast Petroleum University and Tribro General LLC.
  • Resource Recovery from a Coal-Fired Power Plant to Enhance Agricultural Production – North American Coal Corporation, Great River Energy and Knorr Farms are collaborating to create a research project to demonstrate the effectiveness of greenhouse agriculture and open field utilization of carbon dioxide in North Dakota. The project will evaluate the use of CO2 and residual heat for enhanced agriculture production. The goal is to quantify the improvement in agriculture by using recovered resources from lignite-based generation. The total estimated cost of the project is $299,557. The research partners are requesting $149,557 from the NDIC.
  • “VCCSTM Cycle” Carbon Capture & Utilization Technology – Phase II – Project participants will continue work toward building a VCCS Pilot Plant in a subsequent Phase III project, which would be deployed at Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station. Phase II involves demonstrating the carbonization chemistry of VCCS at a laboratory scale. The project’s aim is to build and deploy a pilot plant at Coal Creek Station for demonstration purposes, using flue gas CO2 and coal ash from Coal Creek to make marketable products. Expansion Energy LLC is requesting $37,000 from the state, which will be matched with other sources for a total cost of $124,000.

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

“The four projects offer potential benefits to the industry, but they must be thoroughly vetted before either the Lignite Research Council or the North Dakota Industrial Commission approves 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 experts evaluate each of the proposals and their evaluations are given to the members of the Lignite Research Council.”

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

The North Dakota Industrial Commission 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 about $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 $3.5 billion in gross business volume within the state.