GTL Energy to build own plantSOUTH HEART — GTL Energy, which recently announced plans to work with Great Northern Power Development LP and Allied Syngas Corp. on their proposed South Heart coal-gasification plant, has decided it wants to build a plant of its own near here.
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
SOUTH HEART — GTL Energy, which recently announced plans to work with Great Northern Power Development LP and Allied Syngas Corp. on their proposed South Heart coal-gasification plant, has decided it wants to build a plant of its own near here.
The plant is to be a research facility to help improve low-grade coals intended to be used in projects like the gasification plant. The research facility also is to showcase the technology GTL has developed to potential customers around the world.
GTL CEO and co-founder Robert French said after developing the technology, it has become necessary for them to demonstrate it on a commercial scale.
“There are a number of projects around the world actively looking at our technology,” French said. “We don’t have the facilities here (in Colorado) to go to full commercial production. What we needed to do was put this on a full commercial size...We need to display them, to deploy them, and prove them in the field.”
Originally a South Australian company founded in 2000, GTL opened offices in Golden, Colo., in 2005 and French said the majority of their employees are now located in the United States.
French said they could have chosen to build the $10.5 million research plant project anywhere in the country, but there was a reason they chose South Heart.
“We could have put it in Texas or in Colorado, but we thought because of the size of the coal reserves in North Dakota and the stoker market for briquettes, it made more sense to do something in Dakota than anywhere else,” French said.
The technology GTL utilizes removes excess water from coal, which reduces emissions, among other things.
By removing the water from the coal, it radically improves the amount of heat the coal can produce. French said in working with the different samples of North Dakota lignite they collected during trips here in the fall of 2005, they produced a high quality briquette that raised the thermal energy from 6,000 BTUs to over 9,000 BTUs.
If the water isn’t extracted from the coal before it is burned, you use more coal to burn off the water, which increases emission levels.
French said GTL wants to start building the research plant later this year so it is completed before the winter.
“We’re preparing the data for submittal to the proper authorities now,” French said. “...This would be a full-scale, but very small plant.”
The GTL plant has to go through an approval process much like the Great Northern and Allied gasification plant.
The land it is looking at also has to be rezoned from agricultural to industrial.
The proposed research plant is to consist of two buildings — one used for drying and one used for processing.
The larger of the two would measure 52,000 square feet and the smaller of the two would be 14,400 square feet.
All of the coal would also be stored in these two buildings.
GTL has already hired three employees to help with the development of the plant in North Dakota and French said the plant would probably have a dozen permanent employees.
“It all depends on the work load, probably looking at a dozen permanent and then some part time and consultants,” French said. “...That could double or triple if we went to two or three shifts.”
French said they could process 100,000 tons of coal the first year, but increase the capacity to 200,000 to 300,000 after that if everything went as planned.
When asked if the current lawsuit in front of the proposed gasification plant could halt their plans to build in South Heart, French said no.
“We’re not associated with Great Northern other than the fact we are providing our technology to them,” French said.
French hopes they can establish and prove their technology with the help of the commercial-sized research plant and that Great Northern and Allied can utilize it at a South Heart plant.
“It’ll be a very environmental-friendly approach,” French said. “It would be very useful for Great Northern to have this technology and be able to use clean fuel rather than raw lignite.”