Research and development may add new products at Great Plains Synfuels Plant

Potential projects look positive, and whether to proceed will be determined in the near future.

Innovation has always been a key to growing the product slate at Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant. Some recent research and development work has resulted in three potential areas to expand or improve.

A team is looking into the plant producing argon, an inert, colorless, and odorless gas used in fluorescent lights and arc welding. At the end of 2019, Dakota Gas received a marketing study that confirmed the demand for argon is increasing faster than supply in the United States. Because of this, the price of argon has significantly increased since Dakota Gas last looked at adding it to its product portfolio.

Other projects being considered at the Synfuels Plant include refining the naphtha and tar oil overhead streams already captured at the plant. Dan Gallagher, Basin Electric commodity sales and trading manager, said he is working with a team to evaluate the benefits of refining the streams for better sale opportunities.

While tar oil has always been a feedstock at the plant, it was primarily used as boiler fuel before a tar oil stripper was added to the plant in 2014. Currently, the overhead stream from the tar oil stripper is used as boiler fuel. Removing some of the stream properties would provide a better quality stream to sell.

Naphtha has also been a product stream that has been separated and sold into the market. Gallagher said a research firm has been testing methods to refine the stream and improve its quality for better performance in the markets.

Work continues on both projects to confirm product specification, review finance performance, confirm the project proposal, and determine if the project should move forward.

Gallagher said the projects look positive, and whether to proceed will be determined in the near future.

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