1987-1988

Dakota Gasification Company is born

Great Plains reached a production milestone, 100 billion cubic feet of synthetic natural gas, on Jan. 18. The next month,

the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)  hired Shearson Lehman Brothers of New York City to help in marketing the Great Plains Synfuels Plant.

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed ruling by Judge Conmy upholding validity of gas contracts May 19. Basin Electric General Manager Robert McPhail then informed Basin Electric’s member co-ops by letter about the importance of this court decision and Basin’s interest in the continued operation of the gasification plant. In August, Basin Electric directors instructed management to study the merits of Basin Electric becoming a bidder for the plant. The Eighth  Circuit Court upheld the foreclosure in October.

U.S. Sens. Quentin Burdick and Kent Conrad of North Dakota then asked Senate leaders for support on an amendment calling for Congressional oversight of the gasification plant sale.

At annual meeting Nov. 20, 1987, Basin Electric members authorized the cooperative to continue investigating and, if appropriate, negotiate for the purchase of the gasification plant. A bylaw amendment approved also allowed forming subsidiaries to engage in other business. Basin Electric then notified the DOE of its interest in purchasing Great Plains.

In December, DOE released the names of 15 companies that were interested in the Great Plains plant. The Basin Electric board agreed to hiring experts, if need be, to evaluate the plant and its purchase.

The new pioneers

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing April 13, 1988 to examine the proposed sale of the gasification plant.

Great Plains achieved one year (1.7 million workhours) without a lost-time accident on April 14.

House Speaker Jim Wright toured Great Plains April 25 along with DOE Assistant Secretary Allen Wampler, Congressman Byron Dorgan and Gov. Sinner. DOE submited an application to modify the construction permit regarding some environmental deficiencies.  

DOE announced on Aug. 5 that Basin Electric was the successful bidder for Great Plains. Basin Electric members authorized the purchase of the gasification plant through subsidiaries at a special meeting Aug. 24.

U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing Sept. 12 regarding the pending sale of Great Plains.

Basin Electric formed Dakota Gasification Company (Dakota Gas) and Dakota Coal Company as subsidiaries on Sept. 15. Elected to the first Dakota Gas board were Basin directors Merrill Sterler, Wayne Child, Gerard Jacobs and Quentin Louden, who also was elected Dakota Gas chairman. Outside directors elected were former ND Gov. William Guy and Tom Fennell, former South Dakota Rural Electric Association manager. A third outside director was to be elected later. Officers elected were Robert McPhail, president and CEO, and Kent Janssen, vice president and chief operating officer.

Dakota Gas assumed ownership of the gasification plant on Oct. 31, 1988.