Mined: Lignite Energy in America, a podcast of the Lignite Energy Council, began its fourth season this week, interviewing Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach. WDEA Exec Geoff Simon co-hosts with Kate Muggerud. Watch the episode at https://bit.ly/3C3ysR6.
Lt. Governor Sanford to Speak at Event
Members of the Coal Conversion Counties Association will hear from a dozen speakers at their annual meeting Wednesday evening, October 27, at the Beulah Civic Center.
The event kicks off with remarks about economic opportunities in the energy sector from Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford. Attendees will also hear a report about the current status of electric markets and where they are headed from John Weeda, director of the ND Transmission Authority.
CCC Chairman John Phillips said it's an important meeting for the coal counties in light of recent announcements about the potential shutdown or reduced use of coal conversion facilities.
"The uncertainty looming in Mercer, McLean and Oliver Counties is creating an impact," Phillips said. "New hires choosing to commute to the area, new businesses choosing not to locate here, and what will local governments and schools do with the loss of severance and conversion tax dollars that are a significant part of their budgets?"
Phillips said Great River Energy's announcement that it planned to close Coal Creek Station was "a real eye opener and reality check" for residents of the three counties.
"There was a sudden realization that 'this may not be forever,'” Phillips said. "The complacency was brought to an abrupt halt, and now with Basin announcing the Dakota Gasification reformer study, the possible sale of the synfuels plant to Bakken Energy, and Otter Tail contemplating a pullout from Coyote Station, people are asking 'what is the future of coal mining?'"
The agenda also includes a facilities update from Jean Schafer, Senior Legislative Representative for Basin Electric Power Cooperative; a report on “The Energy Transition and Decarbonization” from Gerry Pfau, Senior Manager of Project Development, Minnkota Power Cooperative; remarks about "The Changing Electric Generation Landscape" from PSC Commissioner Randy Christmann; a presentation from Otter Tail Power regarding its Integrated Resource Plan; a summary of EERC's efforts to preserve the coal industry; a report on the Lignite Energy Council's advocacy efforts; and the program concludes with remarks from coal county legislators.
"We have worked hard to bring speakers to this meeting who will update and share with the membership what is the long term reality of these industries and the difficult times operating in this environment," Phillips said.
Increase Expected for First Time Since 2014
The US Energy Information Administration expects 22 percent more U.S. coal-fired generation in 2021 than in 2020, according to its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook.
The EIA reports that the U.S. electric power sector has been generating more electricity from coal-fired power plants this year as a result of significantly higher natural gas prices and relatively stable coal prices. The report indicates 2021 will yield the first year-over-year increase in coal generation in the United States since 2014.
Coal and natural gas have been the two largest sources of electricity generation in the United States. In many areas of the country, the two fuels compete to supply electricity based on their relative costs. US natural gas prices have been more volatile than coal prices, so the cost of natural gas often determines the share of generation provided by natural gas and coal.
Because natural gas-fired power plants convert fuel to electricity more efficiently than coal-fired plants, natural gas-fired generation can have an economic advantage even if natural gas prices are slightly higher than coal prices. Between 2015 and 2020, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators remained relatively low and stable. This year, however, natural gas prices have been much higher than in recent years. The year-to-date delivered cost of natural gas to US power plants has averaged $4.93 per million BTU, more than double last year’s price.
The overall decline in US electric demand in 2020 and record-low natural gas prices led coal plants to significantly reduce the percentage of time that they generated power. In 2020, the utilization rate (capacity factor) of US coal-fired generators averaged 40 percent. Before 2010, coal capacity factors routinely averaged 70% or more. This year’s higher natural gas prices have increased the average coal capacity factor to about 51%, which is almost the 2018 average.
"Landmark Day" for Red Trail Energy
Project at Richardton First of Its Kind
The ND Industrial Commission this week approved Red Trail Energy's plans to inject and store carbon dioxide from its Richardton ethanol facility in underground sandstone formations.
The RTE facility currently emits about 180,000 metric tons of nearly pure CO2 annually from the fermentation process during ethanol production. NDIC's approval allows RTE to capture, dehydrate, compress and inject the CO2 stream into the Broom Creek formation at a depth of about 6,400 feet.
Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said Red Trail had completed all the required seismic testing and modeling of the underground formations to ensure the secure storage of the compressed gas.
Click here to listen to Helms' comments.
Helms said the Broom Creek formation is "a beautiful sandstone reservoir" that spans about 300 feet underground. That's about 10 times the width of oil-bearing formations in the Bakken, and Helms joked that the formation has "probably 10,000 times the permeability" of Bakken shale.
Click here to listen to Helms' comments.
Helms characterized approval of the Red Trail permit as "a landmark day," marking the first project of its kind anywhere in the United States. North Dakota was the first state in the nation to be granted regulatory authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to permit geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, which are known as Class VI wells. Wyoming has subsequently obtained similar Class VI primacy from the EPA.
Geologists have estimated the state has the capacity in underground sandstone formations to store 252 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Click here for more information on North Dakota’s Class VI well program.
Court Rejects Corps Motion to Dismiss Claim
A federal judge has ruled against the Army Corps of Engineers' motion to throw out the state of North Dakota's claim that it is owed $38 million in law enforcement costs related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016 and 2017.
Judge Daniel Traynor denied a request by the Department of Justice to dismiss the state's claim. The federal agency argued the court was jurisdictionally barred from ordering compensation because the costs do not constitute “injury or loss of property.” But Traynor ruled the state's emergency response costs are “money damages . . . for injury or loss of property” under federal law, and the damages are also permissible as damages under North Dakota state law.
The protests resulted in $38 million in enforcement costs and more than 700 arrests at protest campsites. According to Morton County officials, nearly 94% of those arrests were protesters from out of state, meaning taxpayers were stuck with a bill for law enforcement costs largely created by people who did not live in North Dakota. Aside from damages on federal and state lands, personal property damage was reported by 544 households totaling more than $8 million. The state's lawsuit focuses around the damages on land controlled by the Corps of Engineers.
State lawyers argued that because the Corps allowed, and even encouraged, protesters to camp illegally, to damage surrounding infrastructure and require a massive, months-long police effort, it is the Corps' responsibility to pay for it. The Corps has argued that it allowed the protestors to stay under the pretense of free speech rights.
The state has been negotiating with DOJ and the Corps to try to settle the case, but Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said this week he is no longer optimistic that federal officials want to reach an agreement. If the two sides don't reach an agreement, the case is scheduled to go to trial in May 2023.
Click here to read Judge Traynor's decision.
Request to Use ARPA for Project
The Department of Mineral Resources wants to expand on its existing abandoned oil well plugging and reclamation program by converting some of the wells to provide fresh water for livestock.
DMR Public Information Officer Katie Haarsager asked the interim House Appropriations Committee this week to fund a program that would convert up to 32 abandoned oil and gas wells to water wells to help livestock producers during times of drought. Haarsager said DMR has prioritized wells throughout western North Dakota as candidates for the conversion.
Click here to listen to Haarsager's comments.
Haarsager said DMR, working with the Medora Grazing Association, has already converted six abandoned wells to provide water for livestock. It was done as part of a DMR program authorized last year that used $66 million in CARES Act funding to plug and later reclaim abandoned well sites.
DMR is requesting $6.4 million from the state's ARPA dollars (American Rescue Plan Act), figuring an average cost of $200,000 per well. Haarsager said the initial wells that were part of the CARES Act program were plugged back to the Fox Hills formation at a depth of about 1,400 feet.
If approved by the legislature, DMR expects funds would be obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.
Western ND Projects Are High on the List
Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are reviewing dozens of requests for a portion of the estimated $1 billion in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds allocated to North Dakota by the federal government. Among them is a $317 million list of projects suggested by the ND Department of Transportation.
The NDDOT list includes a request to fund construction of a 4-lane on Highway 85 from Watford City to the Long X bridge in 2023, and a major reconstruction of the intersection of Highway 2 and 26th Street in Williston.
In her testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Terra Miller Bowley, NDDOT's Deputy Director for Administration, said the list of projects "will address critical road needs across the state."
The department also requested funds for coal country. NDDOT wants to widen and resurface Hwy 25 from the city of Center west to the junction of Hwy 31, and to improve Highway 31 from that point (Hannover) south to Interstate 94.
In a separate request, the City of Williston had asked for $38 million to fund the Hwy 2 and 26th Street project. In his written testimony, City Administrator David Tuan noted that it is the largest and busiest intersection in the city, averaging around 25,000 vehicles per day. Tuan noted that it is also gateway to Williston Square, the city's re-development project on the site of the former Sloulin Field Airport.
Williston also requested $17 million to complete two federally-mandated wastewater projects - $9 million for environmental remediation of the city's former lagoon infrastructure, and $8 million for flood protection for its new wastewater treatment facility.
Project Could Deliver to Un-Served Cities
A state representative from Rugby who serves on the House Appropriations Committee has thrown his support to a proposal to build a natural gas pipeline across the state's northern tier to deliver up to 250 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to eastern North Dakota.
Rep. Jon Nelson had offered a separate funding proposal to serve eastern ND communities by tapping the Alliance Pipeline, which enters the state north of Minot and cuts diagonally to the southeast, exiting the state east of Hankinson. But in remarks to the Senate Appropriations Committee, Nelson threw his support behind the plan pitched last week by Grand Forks Senator Curt Kreun.
Rugby, which has a population of about 3,000 people, is one of nearly two dozen North Dakota cities with a population of 1,000 or more that does not have natural gas service. In remarks to the committee, Nelson said Rugby hasn't seen much growth in recent years, but he believes natural gas service could help change that.
Click here to listen to Nelson's comments.
In his testimony last week, Senator Kreun, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, said the pipeline would be a win-win for the state, providing natural gas takeaway capacity to western North Dakota to avoid constraints on oil production, while delivering additional gas supply to support value-added agriculture projects in eastern North Dakota. Kreun asked the committee last week to consider putting $100 million toward the project, using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Nominee Testifies for Asst. Secretary Position
The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met this week to consider three of Joe Biden's nominations for posts in the Departments of Energy and Interior. Among them was the nomination of Ashley, ND native Brad Crabtree for Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.
Crabtree was introduced at the hearing by Senator John Hoeven, who cited Crabtree's background in carbon management and work in the Upper Midwest.
Crabtree testified before the committee, asserting that his background working with the Great Plains Institute, Midwestern Governors Association, Carbon Capture Coalition and State Carbon Capture Work Group, has prepared him for the job. He said the office under his leadership will play a key role in commercializing innovative technologies to decarbonize energy as well as maintaining reliability and affordability.
"If confirmed, I commit to working with you to faithfully meet our climate commitments, sustain high-wage jobs and domestic energy and industrial production, provide environmental benefits to communities, and position the U.S. for continued technology leadership," Crabtee said.
The committee's ranking member, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), asked Crabtree if he was committed to ensuring the administration stops killing American fossil fuel production and helping OPEC countries as a result of its energy policies.
"If confirmed I will be committed to advancing the (administration's low and zero-carbon) agenda," Crabtree said. "The technologies that the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management is tasked with the deployment of are the very technologies that will allow traditional energy industries - coal, oil and natural gas - to continue in a low-carbon economy and produce the energy that our country needs."
The Office of Fossil Energy is the oldest traceable organization under DOE, operating since the early 1900s, just a few decades after the first oil well was drilled in 1859. The Bureau of Mines was created in 1910 to learn more about oil extraction, and later expanded to include the Office of Coal Research. It became part of the Department of Energy, which was established in 1977. The role of Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy was created in 1979, and expanded by Biden this year to include Carbon Management.
Watch the full committee hearing here. Click here to learn more about the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Click here to read more about Crabtree's nomination and background in WDEA's September 3 newsletter.
EERC Leads CO2 Capture & Storage Project
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $5 million to the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center to support the EERC-led Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership.
PCOR works to develop commercial-scale transportation and storage of carbon dioxide emissions across a region that covers 13 states and four Canadian provinces. ND Senator John Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee, congratulated EERC on the grant award.
“North Dakota is leading the way in CCUS (carbon capture utilization and storage), and the EERC is a central part of these efforts as it works with partners across the region to implement these technologies in a commercially-viable way for a variety of energy sources, including coal, ethanol and for enhanced oil recovery,” Hoeven said. “We worked to advance this funding to ensure PCOR can continue its good work in researching, testing and developing our state’s capacity for CO2 transportation and storage.”
The award follows a meeting Hoeven had with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the EERC, where he stressed the role that CCUS will play in ensuring the nation remains energy secure. The senator outlined his efforts to advance the development of technologies like Project Tundra and ensure they are commercially-viable.
Hoeven is also sponsoring legislation to modernize the 48A tax credit for CO2 capture retrofit projects and helped introduce a bipartisan bill to provide a direct payment option for the 45Q and 48A CCUS tax incentives.
Slides from Oct. 13-14 Event in Williston
Attendees at last week's annual meeting of the Western Dakota Energy Association heard presentations from more than two dozen speakers, as well as engaging panel discussions on oilfield transportation, TENORM disposal and education/workforce needs.
PDF versions of the presentations can be downloaded from WDEA's website.
Oil & Gas Production Review, County-by-County results – Lynn Helms, Dept. of Mineral Resources
The Hydrogen Economy – Chad Wocken, EERC
Wise Roads – Road Evaluations and Closures: Look How Far We’ve Come – Curt Glasoe, NDLTAP
Wise Roads Project – Current Status and Future Enhancements - Jonathan Rosencrans, NDAWN
GRIT – New tools for Industry to Use to Evaluate Roadway Conditions – Leanna Emmer, NDLTAP
LoadPass Permits Expansion and System Enhancements – Joelle VanderLinden and Brent Bogar
TENORM History and Solutions – Williams County Panel
Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association - Cal Klewin
America’s Rural Energy Coalition – Senator Brad Bekkedahl
North Bakken Expansion Project – Mark Anderson, WBI Energy
ONEOK Investments: Past, Present and Future – Dick Vande Bossche
Bakken Area Skill Center - Steve Holen, McKenzie County School Superintendent
Williston State College, Workforce Solutions – Dr. Bernell Hirning, WSC President
Redistricting in the West - Senator Rich Wardner
Electric Markets, Where Are We Headed? – John Weeda, ND Transmission Authority
Halloween-Themed Tours Set for October 30
The Chateau de Morès State Historic Site in Medora is offering a "Chateau Macabre" event to celebrate Halloween next Saturday, October 30.
Tours will begin at 5:00 p.m. MST, with a new one starting every 30 minutes through 7:00 p.m. Visitors will experience 19th-century frights and sights as they are guided across the Marquis' ranch, haunted by those who once roamed the storied hills. Planners say they won't spoil the surprises, but promise it will be a Halloween unlike any other.
Reservations are recommended, and may be made by contacting Anna Killian by phone (701-623-4355) or email. The entry fee in advance is $8/adult, $3/child age 6-15, and pre-schoolers are free. Children under 15 must be supervised.
The Chateau De Mores is a 26-room hunting cabin constructed in 1883 by the Marquis de Morès. Click here for more information.
Right of Way Must be Clear by Nov. 1
Rights of way on North Dakota highways must be cleared of hay bales by November 1. If any remain after that date, they will be removed as directed by the NDDOT District Engineer.
According to the ND Department of Transportation, bales need to be removed for snow management and safety reasons.
State law prohibits hay from being placed in the right of way except on the outer edge. Large round bales must not be placed on in-slopes or within 60 feet of the edge of the driving lane.
- ND state revenues see 'positive track' in new budget cycle -- Bismarck Tribune
- ND permits first of likely many CO2 storage projects -- Williston Herald
- Program helps energy business train displaced oil workers -- Minot Daily News
- Redistricting likely to have favorable impact on Bakken -- Tioga Tribune
- Gasoline prices up in North Dakota despite summer's end -- Bismarck Tribune
- Judge dismisses charges against Bismarck and police officers over DAPL protest -- KFYR TV
- A dream 10 years in the making: Genesis breaks ground in Williston Square -- Williston Herald
- Port: Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem needs to own these legal failures -- Jamestown Sun
- Searches begin for new Job Service ND head, land commissioner -- Bismarck Tribune
- High court hears one side of argument in Divide County appeal -- Crosby Journal
- Southwest Water celebrates 30 years of service to Dickinson -- Dickinson Press
- Rural power, coalition wants America to know where its energy comes from -- The Daily Review
- Recent precipitation eases drought in ND, northwest corner still lacking -- Associated Press
- Economic development group offers mentoring for future leaders -- Tioga Tribune
- Badlands Dinosaur Museum airlifts tyrannosaur from Montana to Dickinson -- Dickinson Press
- Dickinson to abolish volunteer program; firefighters become part-time employees -- Dickinson Press
- Mental health getting a big boost from $2 million in grants from Williams County -- Williston Herald
- South Heart Public School expands its sustained silent reading program -- Dickinson Press
- ND colleges collaborate to preserve tribal language and culture -- US News
- Dual credit scholarship available from North Dakota University System -- Grand Forks Herald
- ND leaders urged to think big on child-care spending -- Bismarck Tribune
- Biden will get coal for Christmas; will be needed to stabilize grid -- Real Clear Energy
- COP26: Leak reveals nations want to play down call to move away from fossil fuels -- BBC
- Peabody stock surges 17% as energy crisis boosts demand for coal -- Yahoo Finance
- China tells mines to produce 'as much coal as possible' -- CNN
- 'This is our last chance:' Biden urges action as climate agenda hangs by a thread -- The Guardian
- Why bad climate legislation is worse than no climate legislation -- Michael Shellenberger
- UN demands further cuts to oil, gas and coal production to stop global warming -- Breitbart
- Americans are paying $144 million more for gas per day under Biden than under Trump -- Newsweek
- Biden suddenly loves frackers, asks industry to help reduce gas prices -- Wall Street Journal
- Exxon debates abandoning some of is biggest oil and gas projects -- Wall Street Journal
- Energy crunch hits global recovery as winter approaches, shortages everywhere -- Bismarck Tribune
- Europe made its energy bed and now must sleep in it -- shivering! -- Financial Post
Factoid of the Week
Ramkota Hotel - Bismarck
October 22, 2021
WTI Crude: $83.76
Brent Crude: $85.53
Natural Gas: $5.28
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 29 (Down 1) 10/22/2020 -- 12 rigs