Clean-coal power plant proposed for Center

North Dakota State Roundup

Published October 1, 1992  | October 1992 issue

Plans to build a $300 million clean-coal demonstration plant near Center were announced recently by state and energy industry officials.

The proposed plant would be located beside two other power plants about 42 miles northwest of Bismarck. Construction, tentatively scheduled to begin in 1994, is contingent upon approval by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and a $146 million grant through DOE's clean coal program.

Remaining funds will come from the following sources, all of which stand to benefit from the project:

  • the state, which hopes to see 60 new permanent jobs and about 500 construction jobs for the region and increased production for North Dakota's coal industry;
  • BNI Coal Ltd., which will supply the coal from its mine at the plant's location;
  • Minnesota Power, which will receive the 160 megawatts of power produced by the project;
  • and Babcock & Wilcox, the plant's main contractor and the developer of some of the new technology to be used at the plant.

What makes the Center plant special is the proposed marriage of two innovative clean-coal technologies. One process, pioneered by Babcock and Wilcox, Akron, Ohio, reduces acid-rain causing emissions by up to 95 percent through the use of a unique boiler system.

The other technology involves a gasification process developed by the Energy and Environmental Resource Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

The EERC will not only provide the technology for burning the low- grade coal, or lignite, that is native to North Dakota, but it will also study uses of production byproducts.

"This is the first time that we've had a project that's involved private industry, state government and the university," says Pat Miller, communications coordinator for the EERC. "That triangle is going to be very important for the state." He adds that the need for clean-coal technology may also serve to revive the state's depressed lignite industry.

And there may be further benefits to the university and the EERC. "Some research dollars may come as a result of the project," Miller says. He also sees some opportunities for the use of their technology in developing nations where, Miller says, "All they have is low-ranked coal as a cheap source of energy."

If the Center project proceeds as planned, the testing period will begin in 1997, with full production in 1999.

Kathy Cobb