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Ethanol plants evaluate changes amid Coal Creek's planned closure

Ethanol plants evaluate changes amid Coal Creek's planned closure

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Blue Flint

Blue Flint Ethanol is located near Coal Creek Station in McLean County.

The parent company of two North Dakota ethanol plants that depend in part on the operation of Coal Creek Station is evaluating future changes to the plants in light of that facility’s planned closure.

Midwest AgEnergy Group operates Blue Flint, which uses steam and water from Coal Creek next door in McLean County. Near Jamestown, the company runs Dakota Spirit next to Spiritwood Station, a power plant fueled by both natural gas and coal processed at Coal Creek.

Last week, Great River Energy announced that it will close Coal Creek in 2022 and convert Spiritwood to run entirely on natural gas.

Midwest AgEnergy will use a contract termination payment from the power cooperative to reinvest in “alternative sources” of power and water at Blue Flint, the company said in a statement.

The company is “evaluating best options for the repower of our Blue Flint facility to ensure its sustained operations beyond 2022,” CEO Jeff Zueger said.

Midwest AgEnergy plans to continue to develop a carbon capture and storage project at Blue Flint that it had started with Coal Creek. Such an effort would involve capturing the ethanol plant's carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change, and sending them deep underground for permanent storage.

A similar project is underway near Richardton in Stark County at an ethanol plant run by a different operator, Red Trail Energy.

Midwest AgEnergy said it “sees little to no impact to the Dakota Spirit facility" and will support Great River Energy as it transitions Spiritwood Station to run entirely on gas.

The changes will ensure that Midwest AgEnergy “can continue operations at our facilities and provide employment for our staff while purchasing and processing corn from local farmers,” the company said. Corn is used to make ethanol.

Although Great River Energy plans to close Coal Creek, state officials and representatives of North Dakota’s lignite coal industry say they will try to find a new owner. The facility is the largest coal-fired power plant in the state.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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