Funding approved for innovative lignite research projects

State support has been crucial in the efforts to find solutions to environmental regulations, said Jim Sheldon, Basin Electric senior research and development engineer.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) approved funding for two innovative lignite research projects at its monthly meeting Dec. 16 in Bismarck, ND.

Basin Electric; the Energy & Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks; 8 Rivers and ALLETE Inc., along with ALLETE subsidiaries BNI Coal and Minnesota Power, were granted $1.48 million toward the total $3.18 million one-year research project to further development of the Allam Cycle technology and utilization system for lignite coal.

“The support from the state of North Dakota is crucial as they continue to partner with industry to find solutions to environmental regulations that enable the continued utilization of lignite coal,” said Jim Sheldon, Basin Electric senior research and development engineer.

The vision for the Allam Cycle, invented by 8 Rivers, consists of gasifying lignite coal to produce synthetic natural gas, which would then be used along with oxygen and carbon dioxide to drive a turbine generator.

This working fluid is then cooled through a heat exchanger and water is separated from it to create a nearly-pure CO2 stream. The CO2 stream is pressurized and a majority of the flow is fed back to the combustor as the working fluid to begin the cycle again. The remaining part of the CO2 flow is collected and put into a pipeline without increasing the power plant's cost of producing electricity.

The technology could provide Dakota Gasification Company another source of marketable CO2 to be used for enhanced oil recovery or other purposes, and provide Basin Electric a more efficient, and CO2 emission-free way of generating electricity using lignite coal.

The NDIC also approved more than $200,000 for “LP Amina BenePlus,” a three-to-six month project directed by LP Amina near Beulah, ND. The work includes performing an economic study of the beneficiated coal and related liquid byproducts while also further developing the proprietary catalytic process on lignite coal.

An engineering study will also be completed to determine the modifications required to use this higher grade coal in existing lignite-based power plant boilers.

Basin Electric, North American Coal, Tesoro and LP Amina will provide matching funds and in-kind contributions.