GTL moving toward operationA coal plant constructed near South Heart may be operating in a month, said Robert French, chief executive officer of GTL Energy USA Ltd., which owns the plant.
A coal plant constructed near South Heart may be operating in a month, said Robert French, chief executive officer of GTL Energy USA Ltd., which owns the plant.
“It depends on the weather,” French said. “We’ll be doing lots of commissioning at first and some testing, so I can’t give you a specific date, but we’re getting fairly close.”
The plant will remove moisture from coal, making the coal more efficient.
“This is basically a demonstration plant … and then we’ll go into commercial production later on,” French said. “We’ll purchase coal, or we’ll treat coal from other clients and just prove our technology and allow the company to license that technology to make a better product.”
Coal from local mines will be used, he added.
“We’ll be testing North Dakota lignite first and then the second shipment will be from New Zealand,” French said. “We’ll be using lignite from various sources from Dakota and from overseas and probably be pulling stuff in from adjoining states and maybe Canada.”
The plant needs to be zoned industrial, and the Stark County Commission has rezoned it twice because of an appeal. French said the plant has all of its permits in place, but the decision has been appealed again.
South Heart area landowners, together with Neighbors United and the Dakota Resource Council, filed the complaint.
“If we win again, then those permits are going to be yanked away and it’s anyone’s guess as to how that would play out,” said Derrick Braaten, the attorney representing the local groups opposed to the rezoning.
French declined to comment about what would happen if the zoning were again overturned.
Braaten said the major arguments in the appeal accuse the county of spot zoning and failing to comply with their comprehensive plan. He added the groups he is representing are not necessarily against the plant, they oppose its location.
“There’s several people I think in these groups that say they think the plant would be great, it’s just that you’re sticking it in the middle of this prime agricultural land and we create industrial parks for this kind of thing,” Braaten said.
French said the South Heart site was an ideal location.
“The South Heart site was chosen because of the facilities and the amenities there. All of the facilities of power, gas, location to railroad and so forth,” French said.
Braaten added it will likely take months for a decision to be made on the appeal.
The plant has four employees and several contractors from the Dickinson area, French said.
“There could be 20 or more people on site depending on what job is in progress,” French said.
More employees will be hired when the plant begins operating, but French said it’s unclear how many will be hired.
“It depends on whether we’re in full production or not, as to how many,” French said.
The GTL Energy plant is not a mine, but North Dakota’s four large lignite mines produced 29.9 million tons of lignite coal in 2009, according to a Thursday press release from the Lignite Energy Council.
Estimated state tax revenues resulting from lignite activities were $98.9 million in 2009, according to the release. Direct and indirect employment connected to the lignite industry reportedly increased from 25,718 jobs in 2008 to 28,401 jobs in 2009, according to an economic study.
The GTL Energy plant will likely be working with coal from these mines.