During the mid-1980s the effect of the recent energy crisis was still being felt. Great Plains Gasification Associates (GPGA), of which American Natural Gas (ANG) was the majority partner, was a group of five interstate pipeline companies that built the Great Plains Synfuels Plant (Synfuels Plant), a coal gasification complex near Beulah, ND.
ANG went bankrupt in 1985 and turned the plant over to the Department of Energy (DOE). Employing 700 workers, the Synfuels Plant is one of only two gasification plants in the world (the other one is in South Africa). The plant purchased its power directly from Basin Electric's Antelope Valley Station.
Basin Electric's members discussed what would happen if the plant shut down permanently: the employees would lose their jobs and Basin Electric would lose millions of dollars a year in lost revenue from electric sales, including shared resources of coal and water related to AVS, a $37 million annual impact.
Dakota Gasification Company
After much discussion among the membership, a special session, and negotiation with the Department of Energy, Basin Electric acquired the gasification company in 1988 and named it Dakota Gasification Company on Nov. 1, 1988. With the purchase, Basin Electric was able to keep the synergistic relationship with Antelope Valley Station, retain electric sales, employ 600 gasification employees and diversify into natural gas and a variety of byproducts - from fertilizer to industrial chemicals.
CEO & General Manager 1985-2000
When Basin's first general manager, Jim Grahl, retired in 1985, Robert L. "Bob" McPhail from Western Area Power Administration was hired to lead the organization. McPhail led Basin Electric as it transitioned from the construction to operations when surplus power and rate hikes led to diversified services.
Dakota Gasification Company was acquired by Basin Electric during his tenure.
Construction workers endured unusual weather while erecting Great Plains Synfuels Plant buildings:
"Last winter was one North Dakotans will be telling their grandchildren about, maybe their great-grandchildren. Several weather records fell, but what everybody remembers is that the wind chill factor hit 109 degrees below zero. Fifty below was common, hardly worth mentioning. Yet the Great Plains job went on..."
~ ANR's VENTURE magazine, 1982