Coal mine finishes application processAfter multiple revisions, state officials said Wednesday morning a coal company’s permit application for a nearly 4,600-acre strip coal mine near South Heart is complete and the company also intends to construct a power plant next door.
After multiple revisions, state officials said Wednesday morning a coal company’s permit application for a nearly 4,600-acre strip coal mine near South Heart is complete and the company also intends to construct a power plant next door.
South Heart Coal, LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Great Northern Project Development, LP, received a nod of completeness from the state’s Public Service Commission Wednesday after the coal company’s previous permit applications were deemed deficient including areas in surface water, reclamation, business entity information and operation plans.
But, the application’s completeness does not mean a permit is approved.
Commissioner Kevin Cramer said SHC must now publish notices about the project once a week for four consecutive weeks in The Dickinson Press and Bismarck Tribune and once the last notice is published, any person with objections, desires to file comments or requests for an informal conference on the application has 30 days to do so.
Cramer said he anticipates a public hearing will be requested which most likely will not happen until spring.
Belfield resident Linda Weiss, who serves as the assistant treasurer for the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental organization, said a request for a public hearing may be forthcoming.
South Heart Energy Development, LLC, a subsidiary of GNPD and Allied Syngas Corp., filed a letter of intent with the PSC advising its plans to construct a power plant adjacent to the mine, about three miles west of South Heart.
GNPD, on behalf of SHC, notified the commission nearly two years ago to the day, its plans to construct a coal-to-synthetic natural gas production facility on the same site, said commission Chairman Tony Clark.
However, plans have changed and Clark cites the new ones as “a significantly different project.”
Clark said SHED is now proposing a $2.2 billion project that would turn North Dakota lignite into gas which would be used for a 175 megawatt, combined-cycle electric plant.
“Of course by making these adjustments … you’ve certainly shortened the profile of the physical plant — changed the emissions dramatically,” Cramer said.
Rich Southwick, environmental vice president for GNPD, said the coal will undergo a beneficiation process in a part of the plant capable of processing 2.4 million tons per year.
While the gasification process in the original plans would have converted the coal gasification to methane, it will instead be converted to hydrogen, Southwick said.
The new process captures more of the coal’s carbon, which will be stripped out, leaving hydrogen that is then piped to gas turbines used to create electricity, Southwick said.
The process captures about 92 percent of the coal’s original carbon in the form of CO2, which will then be piped to oil fields in the Williston Basin for enhanced oil recovery, Southwick said.
“Projects like this are things that have been talked about for some time,” Clark said. “It’s certainly something that is, if it’s not cutting edge, it’s on the leading edge of where portions of the electric industry are going so it’s I think an indication of where we’re at in the energy industry, that companies are looking at newer and innovative ways to produce electricity — this is one of those types of projects.”
The facility is intended to serve electric power needs of people and industries of North Dakota and the Upper Midwest, according to the letter of intent.
Southwick said the 350-acre plant would take about four years to construct, with interim construction employing about 685 people. Peak construction will employee about 1,200 people, he said.
Once the plant is complete, it will require about 154 employees, not including those for the mine, he said.
Southwick said construction is not expected to commence before July 2013.
But, a big challenge with the project is its proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, Cramer said.
“We are concerned about anything that might impact the park and visitor’s perceptions of the area, but without seeing the whole application, that’s as much as we can say right now,” said Eileen Andes, chief of interpretation and public affairs for TRNP.