Long-term planning is fundamental to the value Basin Electric provides its members. The decisions we make will impact both our members and our communities for decades, and sometimes generations.
The Basin Electric team has a pulse on everything from how and where our members’ load is growing over the next 30 years, to how national and state public policy may impact our method of meeting that growth. As we continue to diversify our portfolio, the cooperative is investing in ways to maintain our baseload generation through environmental controls, carbon mitigation, and research and support of carbon capture and storage. The cooperative is also supportive of efforts to strengthen the transmission grid through the formation of a regional transmission organization on the Western Interconnection.
Carbon Capture and Storage Experience and Research
Basin Electric’s objective is to provide reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible electricity to its members. The cooperative has invested nearly $2 billion of our members’ capital for environmental controls and spends about $160-180 million annually to operate that equipment.
Basin Electric has made a responsible decision to invest resources into evaluating a capture and storage solution for carbon dioxide to ensure reliability while reducing emissions.
Basin Electric has 20 years of experience and knowledge gained in carbon dioxide capture through our largest subsidiary, Dakota Gasification Company, and its project at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. The project was the first commercial-scale project to capture carbon dioxide from a coal facility and transport it for beneficial use. As of February 2022, the plant has captured 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide since 2000. The plant captures about
2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year and sends it to Canada for enhanced oil recovery.
The process to capture carbon from a coal-based power plant’s flue gas is entirely different, however. Basin Electric is helping advance technology through support of the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC) located at our Dry Fork Station near Gillette, Wyoming. The Wyoming ITC has surpassed $100 million in research and development funding with a large portion coming from the U.S. Department of Energy. Other investors include Membrane Technology and Research, the government of Japan, and XPRIZE, which included academic and private funding.
The cooperative is also partnering with the University of Wyoming, through the U.S. Department of Energy’s CarbonSAFE program, to study the geology near Dry Fork Station for underground storage.
Funding Operational Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage
Carbon capture research helps the industry determine whether carbon capture and storage on electric generating units makes sense economically. State, federal, and university partnerships reduce the investment risk for Basin Electric and its membership into research at Dry Fork Station. U.S. Department of Energy funding and other investors have carried much of the financial burden to date.
The projects at Dry Fork Station, if implemented, would qualify for the 45Q tax credit, a federal tax credit that will provide up to $50/ton of captured carbon dioxide for carbon sequestration projects.
A project Basin Electric is currently moving forward with, and will qualify for 45Q tax credits, is the Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project. Part of the project, Dakota Carbon Pipeline, will carry carbon dioxide from the Great Plains Synfuels Plant to underground storage nearby. Basin Electric’s board approved the project in September 2021; construction began in the fall and the pipeline will be completed in 2022.
Future Potential for Great Plains Synfuels Plant
The Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project is just one part of a dual-path approach Basin Electric is taking with Dakota Gas’ Synfuels Plant.
The Synfuels Plant has been under significant financial pressures due to low commodity prices in recent years and Basin Electric has been looking for a path forward that includes the best options for continuing operation and employment at the facility, as well as mitigating risk to the membership.
In June 2021, Basin Electric entered into a strategic arrangement with Bakken Energy and Mitsubishi Power Americas to pursue the potential to transform the Synfuels Plant into a clean hydrogen hub which would also produce, store, transport, and capture and sequester carbon dioxide. The partners intend to collect data and conduct due diligence through 2022; if negotiations are successful, the final sale of the plant could occur as early as 2023.
In parallel, Basin Electric continues to work on a front-end engineering and design study to add a primary reformer to the Synfuels Plant. The Dakota Gas board approved the study in May 2021. The primary reformer would allow the Synfuels Plant to continue fertilizer production with or without coal gasification, keeping options open for operating the plant depending on factors including commodity prices, available fuel types, and the regulatory climate. The study should be complete in late 2022, at which point a decision would be made whether to move forward with construction. If the project continues to completion, the primary reformer is planned to be in service in 2026.
Shoring Up the Grid
Basin Electric was an inaugural participant in Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) Western Energy Imbalance Services (WEIS) market, which was launched Feb. 1, 2021. The real-time balancing market, implemented in the Western Interconnection, was launched to lower wholesale electricity costs, increase price transparency, and mitigate congestion on the transmission system for market participants.
Following the launch of WEIS, participants are now working toward forming a full regional transmission organization in the west. Basin Electric, Class A member Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Western Area Power Administration, all three current members of SPP, and four other utilities, continue to investigate the opportunity. An SPP study found that a full regional transmission organization on the west could produce $49 million a year in savings to its members compared to present operations.
Building for Reliability
SPP recently completed its 10-year Integrated Transmission Planning (ITP) process which looks to identify and mitigate both reliability and economic constraints on the transmission system. This long term transmission planning process occurs annually and takes into consideration load and generation growth over a ten year timeframe.
SPP published its set of needs for the 2021 ITP in May 2021. Stakeholders like Basin Electric and its member cooperatives provided potential solutions to those needs. SPP’s independent conclusion for the 2021 project portfolio included an estimated $470 million of transmission projects in western North Dakota as well as other projects across the SPP footprint. SPP’s board of directors approved the 2021 ITP portfolio on Jan. 25, 2022.
Other transmission projects already in the works include the Neset-to-Northshore 230-kilovolt transmission line under construction in northwestern North Dakota. The high-voltage line is necessary to help serve load growth in the region between Tioga and New Town, North Dakota; the existing transmission network is unable to maintain loading and voltage criteria during contingency events.
The Aging Substation Infrastructure Replacement Initiative continues after being launched in 2018 as an approach to strengthen and modernize the cooperative’s infrastructure that is approaching end of life. The initiative was based on several evaluations that involved input from multiple departments. Every year, each substation is ranked through a qualitative methodology to ensure the reliability of Basin Electric’s infrastructure long into the future.
Basin Electric made it through the COVID-19 global pandemic better than many employers.
The Great Resignation has been a concern for employers across the nation. Several theories for the reason for increased resignations include employees being burned out by the pandemic, and searching for more purpose and meaning in their jobs, a higher paycheck, and/or the ability to work remotely at least part of the time.
At Basin Electric in 2021, 149 employees left our workforce, 85 of which were retirements.
The Human Resources department increased efforts in attracting and retaining employees. The Learning & Development division added new faces to its team, and is committed to engaging employees from onboarding to preparation for future opportunities. A focus will be in creating innovative solutions for up-skilling or reskilling so that employees can grow their careers.
The team will establish a forum where employees can connect and share what they do to bring value to our member cooperatives, named BE Connected. Not only will our future leaders receive core leadership training, they will also have the opportunity to have values-based training. Our engaged leaders will learn how their actions should align with the cooperative values.
Basin Electric’s members will benefit from the developed skill set of our employees.