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Growers plan $1B project: Fertilizer plant to be built near Grand Forks using ND natural gas

GRAND FORKS -- North Dakota corn growers are planning a $1 billion nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant to be built near Grand Forks in rural Grand Forks County.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown will make a formal announcement today.

The plant will produce nitrogen fertilizer by converting gas currently being flared from oil wells in western North Dakota, according to Tom Lilja, president of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association. Other details will be released during today's news conference.

The facility, which has been estimated to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, could supply fertilizer for up to 12 percent of the corn and wheat acreage in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, Lilja said last summer, when the group initially announced plans to build a plant somewhere in North Dakota.

The plant will address two problems, according to the corn growers: It would use the natural gas from western North Dakota while providing farmers in the region with a guaranteed supply of fertilizer without relying on imports.

The natural gas would be captured and sent from the Oil Patch to the Grand Forks plant via pipelines. Some of North Dakota's natural gas is flared off -- wasted -- because of a lack of infrastructure to gather and use it.

Regional market

The group plans to market and distribute nitrogen fertilizer and other commercial products to farmers and industries in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, as well as Manitoba and Saskatchewan, according to a grant application to the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission.

APUC approved a $100,000 marketing and utilization grant last year.

The group, which received initial funding from a consortium of regional commodity groups, also commissioned a feasibility study that was completed last year by North Dakota State University.

While the group initially intended to build a smaller plant, the NDSU study said that a $1 billion facility would be the ideal size economically.

The NDSU study said that a $1.3 billion plant could produce about 750,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizer annually.

Currently, there are no nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plants in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota or Montana, according to an article last July in The Western Producer a Canadian agriculture publication. The nearest plant, in Brandon, Man., is about half the size of the proposed Grand Forks facility.

CHS Inc., working with North Dakota Farmers Union, also is planning to build $1.4 billion nitrogen fertilizer plant in Spiritwood also using natural gas from oil production.