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North Dakota ethanol company advances carbon storage project
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North Dakota ethanol company advances carbon storage project

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Carbon Capture North Dakota

John Bauer, director of North Dakota generation at Great River Energy, poses by a photograph of Blue Flint Ethanol and Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station Dec. 9 in Bismarck, N.D. The two entities are collaborating on a carbon capture storage project.

BISMARCK, N.D. — A North Dakota ethanol company is preparing to store its carbon dioxide emissions underground and the state's coal-fired companies are considering following suit.

Red Trail Energy, which converts corn into ethanol fuel at its Richardton plant in Stark County, plans to drill a test well on its property within the next few months to further examine the rock where it is aiming to store its carbon dioxide by compressing the gas and shooting it into the earth, The Bismarck Tribune reported Tuesday.

“Once we analyze the information we receive, that will tell us if we move forward with the injection process,” CEO Gerald Bachmeier said.

Last week, Red Trail was given key approval on its carbon capture and storage project from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a three-member panel chaired by the governor that regulates the energy industry.

The company's injection well would be the first permitted by the state since North Dakota assumed oversight of such facilities from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018. Its plant produces a nearly pure stream of carbon dioxide that requires minimal processing before it’s sent underground.

If the ongoing tests confirm carbon capture and storage is practical, Red Trail Energy could start injecting carbon dioxide by fall 2021.

Bachmeier said work is underway to construct a drilling pad on Red Trail property about a mile east of the ethanol plant.

In McLean County, Great River Energy is mulling a similar carbon capture and storage project in collaboration with neighboring Blue Flint Ethanol. In November, the state's Industrial Commission approved a $4.2 million matching grant to help subsidize an initial study examining the feasibility at Coal Creek Station, which is North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant.

“We’re seeing interest from our members for new energy that is a lower-carbon form,” said John Bauer, director of North Dakota generation for Great River Energy, which is made up of 28 member cooperatives in Minnesota. “This is one way we could provide it.”

Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, is created during the fermentation process at ethanol plants. It also makes up part of the flue gas emitted from smokestacks at coal plants.

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