1989-2000

Preserving a Synfuels treasure

David Hamil, former administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration, was elected to the Dakota Gas board in January 1989 along with the re-election of previously named directors and officers. In July, Merrill Sterler was elected Dakota Gas' second chairman, replacing Louden, who was not re-elected to his local cooperative board. As part of the North Dakota Centennial Tree project, 5,000 trees were planted at Synfuels Plant site in May.

In October 1990, Dakota Gas filed suit against the four pipeline companies buying synthetic natural gas over the price and amount of SNG they were required to take from the facility now known as the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. New product facilities were constructed to recover phenol and produce krypton-xenon. The first phenol samples were sent to potential buyers for testing in December.

The first krypton-xenon was shipped from the Synfuels Plant in May 1991.

In July 1992, DOE Secretary James Watkins visited Basin Electric for a Great Plains update.

'A ray of sunlight'

The Synfuels Plants set a record for daily synthetic natural gas production at 176.8 (million standard cubic feet) mmscf on Jan. 27, 1993. The monthly production record set an average of 170.2 mmscf. In February, Robert Partridge, former National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO, was elected to the Dakota Gas board, replacing David Hamil, who resigned in January. The first cresylic acid was sold to company in England in March.

The ND Health Department issued an amended construction permit requiring Dakota Gas to install a wet scrubber to control sulfur emissions. Wisconsin Distributor Group filed a complaint with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in April claiming the gas price charged violates FERC Order 119.

Settlement has Mercer area upbeat

By March 1994, Dakota Gas had reached out-of-court settlements with four pipeline companies which were subject to FERC approval they petitioned for. Construction began on the unique scrubber that would produce fertilizer.

In August, DOE Secretary Hazel O’Leary joined in the joint 10th anniversary of commercial operation of Synfuels Plant and adjacent Antelope Valley Station.

FERC consolidated the pipelines’ filings with the ratepayer complaint in October.

Rallying against a bad decision

In January 1995, FERC approved Natural’s settlement with Dakota Gas on the grounds that no issues were to be heard.

Construction began in June on 1,000-ton-per-day anhydrous ammonia facility. The following month, PanCanadian Petroleum officials visited Dakota Gas about a potential carbon dioxide (CO2) pipeline project, continuing discussions of the past three years.

FERC administrative law judge issued a preliminary decision in December, saying settlements weren’t prudent and ordering pipeline to make a $270 million refund to customers.

The FERC order approving the Dakota Gas settlements with three pipeline companies became final in January 1997. The relocated anhydrous ammonia plant and the new scrubber became operational following. Dakota Gas signed an agreement with PanCanadian in July to deliver CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

A few changes

Kent Janssen, Dakota Gas vice president and Basin Electric’s key negotiator in the purchase of the Synfuels Plant, retired in September 1998. Al Lukes, plant manager, was named the new Dakota Gas vice president and Chester Howard was named Synfuels Plant manager.

A consent agreement was approved in December between the ND Health Department and Dakota Gas resolving the violation notice regarding emissions at the Synfuels Plant. An amendment to the agreement with DOE was signed allowing the use of production tax credits associated with synthetic natural gas production at the Synfuels Plant.

Howard Carlson was elected Dakota Gas' third chairman of board of directors in 1999. In March, DOE Secretary Bill Richardson visited Basin Electric headquarters to announce the agreement allowing Dakota Gas to sell production tax credits to finance CO2 and environmental projects.

Groundbreaking took place May 12 at Synfuels Plant on $110 million pipeline project to deliver CO2 to a Canadian oilfield. In September, Fred Stern, former manager of Basin Electric’s Leland Olds Station, was named manager of the Synfuels Plant, replacing Chester Howard who retired.

Construction on the North Dakota portion of the CO2 pipeline was completed in October. The Canadian and North Dakota portions of CO2 pipeline were joined on Dec. 1.

Dreams of the future

In May 2000, Ron Harper, former general manager of Powder River Energy Corp., Sundance, WY, became the new CEO and general manager of Basin Electric as well as president and CEO of Dakota Gas. He replaced Robert McPhail, who retired. The next month, Don Applegate was elected fourth chairman of Dakota Gas board, to replace Howard Carlson, who retired. During July, technicians at the Synfuels Plant voted to be represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The first CO2 entered the pipeline Sept. 14 from the Synfuels Plant to Canada. Dakota Gas received the first-ever operating permit for the Synfuels Plant from ND Health Department on Oct. 12.

Dedication ceremonies for CO2 pipeline were held concurrently at the Synfuels Plant and in Weyburn, Sask., Canada, on Oct. 19.

In November, Dakota Gas directors William Guy, Bob Partridge and Tom Fennell retired.

New leadership joins the cause

Three new directors were seated on the Dakota Gas board in May 2001: consultant Donald Porter of Pequot Lakes, MN; former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp of Mandan, ND; and Thomas Owens of Grand Forks, ND, an interim dean at the UND School of Engineering and Mines.