Project Tundra: Stabilizing CO2 levels with carbon capturing innovation

Stacey Dahl presenting at the North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo. Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar // The Dickinson Press

Minnkota Power Cooperative, headquartered in Grand Forks, N.D., is aiming to be part of stabilizing CO2 levels with their Project Tundra program and the assistance of North Dakota.

Project Tundra is an innovative concept for carbon capturing that carries value and potential for future development for North Dakota, while potentially sweeping the globe.

According to the most recent studies on the subject, as of Nov. 17, 2019, worldwide carbon dioxide (CO2) levels were at 409.81 parts per million, which according to researchers is still distant from being considered poor air levels, but is does not fall within the normal background concentration of outdoor ambient air. Rising CO2 levels have increased exponentially each year and this past year increased by 1.27 ppm.

Stacey Dahl, senior manager of external affairs and communications with Minnkota Power Cooperative, gave a presentation last week concerning Project Tundra during the annual North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo.

“We are a Co-Op of 150,000 members, and we are proposing to build the largest carbon capture project in the world,” Dahl said. “It's very ambitious, we would not be doing it if we didn't see a bright future.”


This is not Minnkota's first foray into the environmental sphere. Between 2006 and 2011, Minnkota funded over 425 million in environmentally conscious upgrades at their Milton R. Young Station in Hensler, N.D. There the primary equipment installed reduced sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by 95 percent and 60 percent respectively.

Dahl believes the PetraNova Project was a good representation of carbon capturing and the results that came from it have the company confident that Project Tundra will be successful.

During the first 10 months after becoming operational, the Young Station plant delivered more than 1,000,000 tons of captured carbon dioxide and increased oil production 1,300 percent, according to Dahl.

North Dakota's land, according to Dahl, is perfect for capturing CO2 and the company wants state land owners to know about it.

“Similarly positioned formations for which we have taken injection of salt water and produce water for decades without seismic activities lead us to a population aware and comfortable with it,” Dahl said. "We have had a number of public meetings and I can say that there has not been a concern expressed by the community and its important to the community too. If you have ever been to central North Dakota, that community is deeply connected to that mine and that plant there."

Dahl continued, "It is a life for that community, and connecting that with job opportunities is very clear to them.”

According to Dahl, Project Tundra will use the surrounding cap rock layers as permanent-recondite storage for CO2.

After going public with their project, numerous grants have been awarded for Project Tundra including a $15 million grant that came from a state/industry partnership, and a $9.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The grants have been earmarked for use towards future studies to be done by Front End Engineering Design at the Milton R. Young Station. It is estimated that in its entirety, the Tundra project will cost $1 billion.


Minnkota foresees conducting research and advanced design work throughout the end of 2021, with construction likely to start in late 2022 or early 2023. In the present time, Minnkota is working to acquire the necessary federal and state permits.

“There is always a lot of speculation around coal country because of the age of those assets… but when you look at the cost of those assets and lay those next to a new combine cycle, those units are very attractive and again with the stability that is why we continue to push so hard,” Dahl said. “There has been fluids held there for millions of years and we haven't seen seismic activities nor have we seen leakage pathways.

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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