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The lignite industry contributes more than $3 billion to North Dakota's economy. North Dakota is one of the country's top 10-coal producing states.

North Dakota’s lignite industry is an innovative and vital part of the state’s economy with a $3 billion economic impact. The state supports 4,000 megawatts of lignite and other coal generation at seven locations providing low cost, reliable electric power to two million customers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Iowa. North Dakota is one of the country’s top 10 coal-producing states, mining approximately 30 million tons every year since 1988.

Nearly 80 percent of the lignite coal mined annually is used to generate electricity; about 13 percent is used to make synthetic natural gas that is delivered to 400,000 homes and businesses in the eastern United States; and seven percent is used to produce fertilizer products containing anhydrous ammonia and ammonium sulfate.

Lignite in North Dakota

  • The 99 megawatts Spiritwood Station near Jamestown was commissioned in 2011. Fuel processed through the DryFine© lignite refining system at Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station was successfully demonstrated at Spiritwood in late 2011. The environmental controls designed in the plant were demonstrated to meet all current and known future regulations. The plant is currently awaiting completion of the adjacent steam host to allow the plant to generate with the economics of a combined heat and power plant as designed.
  • The Great Plains Synfuels Plant (Synfuels Plant), owned by Dakota Gasification Company (Dakota Gas), is the only commercial-scale coal gasification plant in the U.S. manufacturing natural gas. Average daily production of natural gas is about 153 million cubic feet, the majority of which is used in the eastern United States.
  • The Synfuels Plant supplies carbon dioxide to the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project in the world in Saskatchewan, Canada, for use in enhanced oil recovery. Dakota Gas currently captures between 2.5 and 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
  • Dakota Gas exports about 152 million cubic feet per day of CO2 to Canada – about 50 percent of the CO2 produced when running at full rates. As of 2012, Dakota Gas has captured almost 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
  • Through 2012, more than 22,000 acres of mined land in North Dakota have gone through final bond release, equivalent to about 35 square miles.
  • A portion of reclaimed land becomes devoted to public use such as Harmony Lake which is now used for hunting, fishing, photography, birding, canoeing, boating, and other outdoor activities.
  • Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Glenharold mine received its final bond release in 2012. Over its 30 year productive life the mine won three national awards for its reclamation work.
  • Currently, the Lignite Research Council is participating in 15 research and development projects worth approximately $170 million. Many of these projects focus on ways to reduce, capture and store CO2.
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