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Project Tundra receives $9.8 million grant for FEED research

It’s a project that will likely change the energy landscape in North Dakota in the years to come.

Project Tundra, first written about in this publication in 2017, will retrofit the Milton R. Young Station with carbon dioxide capture technology. More than 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the Young Station’s Unit 2 generator would be captured and stored more than a mile underground. If the project continues to move forward, North Dakota would be a world leader in the development of next-generation energy technologies.

But in the two years since Prairie Business Magazine last spoke with project developers leaps have been made.

The project is now in the advanced research phase and, if it moves ahead, construction could commence some time between 2021 and 2023.

In the meantime, Project Tundra is pursuing financing opportunities and preparing to begin the permitting work. The process of capturing, injecting and storing carbon dioxide underground is being carefully studied and will need to be approved in a rigorous regulatory process overseen by the state of North Dakota and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the project’s website notes.

“We’re currently moving along very well within the project,” said Stacey Dahl, senior manager of external affairs at Minnkota. “We really remain on target with the pieces that we need to accomplish.”

Minnkota is preparing to pursue the necessary federal and state permits required to build the carbon dioxide capture facility and to store the carbon dioxide in a deep geologic formation. These permits ensure the safe injection of CO2, protection of the groundwater resources and the constant monitoring of the carbon dioxide to ensure it remains in the storage zone.

To maintain reliability and affordability of a resilient energy grid, Dahl said it important for there to be a balance between baseload resources, like coal, and renewables, like wind.

“Renewable resources don’t produce power all the time and so to help maintain that reliability and that constant flow of energy into the grid, we need energy from fossil fuels like coal,” Dahl said. “In fact, they continue to supply most of our energy and really power our modern way of life.”

Project Tundra is estimated to cost approximately $1 billion. The project is currently seeking financial partners to help utilize existing 45Q federal tax credits, which are currently $50 per ton of carbon dioxide that is captured and stored in a geologic formation deep underground or $35 per ton that is captured and used for enhanced oil recovery.

Minnkota has secured up to $15 million from the state of North Dakota’s Lignite Research Fund in 2019 to conduct research and advanced design work on Project Tundra.

The project was recently approved for a $9.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. This funding would support a Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study at the Milton R. Young Station, which includes the advanced design, engineering and evaluation of project economics.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said North Dakota is leading the way in developing CCUS technologies. Hoeven recently visited the Energy and Environmental Research Center with DOE officials to talk about the project.

“Developing and deploying this technology is a win both for consumers, who will continue to have access to affordable energy, and for environmental stewardship,” he said in a statement. 

Mac McLennan, president and CEO of Minnkota, said Hoeven has been a believer in Project Tundra since day one.

“Project Tundra is a unique opportunity for North Dakota to lead the world in the advancement of carbon capture technologies,” McLennan said in a statement. “This Department of Energy grant will assist us in completing advanced research and engineering design on the project – one of the final steps before deciding whether to move forward and begin construction.”

The Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota is supporting Project Tundra research with analog research known as Project Carbon. The EERC is recognized as one of the world’s leading developers of cleaner, more efficient energy and environmental technologies.

Jason Laumb with the EERC said a report will be filed on their research in December. So far they’ve been learning how to integrate the carbon capture system with the correct type of technology that works with a solution that will react with the CO2.

The EERC is also studying how to safely and securely store that CO2 on the subsurface with potential enhanced oil recovery.

Dahl said Minnkota is grateful for the partners it has on the project, both private and public.

“This has been a great story in the way of partnerships through not only private industry leadership, but leadership at the state and federal level,” Dahl said. “Our delegation has been very instrumental in helping to prioritize some of these projects through the DOE budget. As a result, the state of North Dakota, despite some very difficult budget cycles for the last four or five years, has prioritized research and development and has really stepped in to match those federal grants as well.”

Minnkota is wrapping up a feasibility study to do solution testing for the project. Testing has been done in the lab and on-site and Dahl says the results have been encouraging thus far.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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