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Fertilizer plant looking for water through pipeline to Missouri River

JAMESTOWN -- Without water, a proposed fertilizer plant near Jamestown can't be built. CHS Inc. announced in late 2014 it would continue with plans to construct a $3 billion fertilizer plant to open in 2018. Since then, it has failed to find a lo...

JAMESTOWN - Without water, a proposed fertilizer plant near Jamestown can’t be built.  

CHS Inc. announced in late 2014 it would continue with plans to construct a $3 billion fertilizer plant to open in 2018. Since then, it has failed to find a local source of water to operate it. Its next option is a pipeline to the Missouri River.

 

"We’ve been through a lot of scenarios looking for water, but we haven’t found one we’ve been able to finalize," John Traeger, president of Cenex Pipeline LLC, who met with the Bismarck City Commission to get its approval to study the possibility of a pipeline project.

 

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"We’re committed to the project. We just have to get a committed water source," said Traeger, adding that, if the pipeline doesn’t work, CHS will continue to look for other options.

 

In addition to using a large amount of natural gas and electricity per day, the plant is expected to use 4,000 to 5,000 gallons per minute of water.

 

CHS tried to get permits to use water from aquifers around Jamestown, Traeger said. The State Water Commission, which evaluates the availability of water and issues permits, said many of the water rights for the area already had been allocated.

 

Traeger said the next step was to consider design changes that would decrease the amount of water needed and allow the plant to treat and re-use water from other area operations. A combination of the amount of water still needed and the price of the changes and treatment were too much, he said.

 

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Traeger said it was determined that CHS could build a pipeline to transport water from the Missouri River for a lesser price.

 

How it might work

 

Keith Demke, director of utility operations for Bismarck, said CHS would like to purchase water from Bismarck’s water treatment plant or lease a portion of capacity from the city’s old water intake on the river.

 

Demke said, if it leased capacity, CHS would have to build a pumping station tied into the treatment plant’s wet well in addition to building the pipeline. Purchasing water would also require a pumping station, likely on the east side of town, and enhancements to the city’s distribution system to get it there.

 

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City Commissioner Josh Askvig expressed concern over what would happen if the city’s new water intake were to go out. The city uses the old intake as a backup.

 

"We have a backup intake for a reason," he said.

 

Demke said the backup intake’s capacity is four times what the fertilizer plant would use. However, if the city were limited to using the old intake, there could be a water shortage if CHS was also using it.

 

Demke said shortages could be addressed in the lease agreement, for example, asking the plant to reduce withdrawals in the case of an outage.

 

"We’re going to look out for the interests of Bismarck’s residents," he said.

 

No cost for the project has been determined, but Demke said the project would be fairly easy to do and the price would pale in comparison to the cost of the whole plant project.

 

New manufacturing

 

If completed, the CHS plant will produce more than 2,400 tons per day of anhydrous ammonia, which will be converted to urea, the fertilizer compound called urea-ammonium nitrate and diesel exhaust fuel. It is one of two proposed fertilizer plants in the state expected to open within the next few years.

 

The other plant is proposed by Dakota Gasification Co., which also plans to produce urea at its Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah.

 

According to the company, 2.4 million tons of urea are imported into the region each year.

 

"We have a lot of demand in the state and a lot of demand in the region," Dave Franzen, a North Dakota State University Extension soil specialist said in 2014.

 

Traeger said the project can’t go any further without certainty on a water supply, which could cause further project delays. He said the cooperative aims to complete its evaluations of the projects by late spring or early summer.

 

If one of the projects is approved, CHS would work on both the plant and the pipeline at the same time to move as quickly as possible. Construction on the fertilizer facility takes 40 months, according to Traeger, who said it’s feasible to permit and build the pipeline in that time as well.

 

Related Topics: JAMESTOWNBISMARCK
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