Carbon capture milestone reached at Dakota Gas

The Great Plains Synfuels Plant in North Dakota has now captured 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a milestone in the synthetic natural gas production facility's 20-year effort to lower the impact of energy production.

The Basin Electric Power Cooperative facility, which is owned and operated by Basin Electric’s subsidiary Dakota Gasification Company, produces synthetic natural gas near Beulah, North Dakota. It is one of the world’s largest carbon capture facilities and also produces and markets several other useful chemicals and fertilizers. CO2 captured at the plant is used in the oil fields near Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada, for enhanced oil recovery.

“This is a great example of an environmental initiative that is not just economical, but actually generates revenue,” said Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut. “This is an exciting achievement, and it has been amazing to see how this project has developed over the years.”

Dakota Gas’ project was the first commercial-scale project to capture CO2 from a coal plant and transport it for beneficial use. For many years this project has drawn worldwide attention and has been a model for the next generations of carbon capture. The facility captures about 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year and reached its milestone on Nov. 10.

“This has been a great revenue stream for Dakota Gas, and it has provided our Canadian customers with the ability to drastically improve the life and productivity of their oil fields, all the while providing an environmental benefit by permanently and safely sequestering carbon dioxide underground,” said Dakota Gas’ Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dale Johnson.

Recovered from the coal gasification process, the CO2 is captured by washing the synthetic natural gas in the plant’s Rectisol unit and is about 95% pure.

Dakota Gas and its Canadian subsidiary, Souris Valley Pipeline Ltd., operate a 205-mile carbon dioxide pipeline to transport the CO2 from the Synfuels Plant to Saskatchewan. Dakota Gas can export more than 3 million metric tons a year.

Dakota Gas is also exploring the possibility of a Section 45Q sequestration project at the Synfuels Plant. The 45Q legislation is a tax credit designed to stimulate investment in technology that allows for the addition of equipment to capture CO2 from new and existing facilities. The project promotes capturing even more carbon dioxide for underground sequestration, enhancing coal’s quest to be an environmentally friendly energy source.

Three years ago, Dakota Gas also started capturing a higher-purity liquefied beverage-grade carbon dioxide stream from the plant’s fertilizer production facility. While this is a much smaller volume than the sequestration project, it is capturing even more CO2 and using it for beneficial use, such as for fracking, a technique of pumping pressurized carbon dioxide into wells to shatter the rock and push out more oil and gas. Additionally, it is used in treating water at municipal water treatment facilities and for beverage carbonation.

“We continuously look for new opportunities to create valuable products from North Dakota lignite, and it is exciting when we can do this while reducing our carbon footprint,” Johnson said.