Providing answers for CO2 capture questions

By Daniel Arens

For the last several months, scientists, engineers and project managers associated with Basin Electric’s CO2 sequestration project have been examining all the ins and outs of making sure any project is done right.

Now, the energy cooperative and representatives from these other groups are planning to present this information to the public locally, so they can understand the basics of the major happening that will be taking place in Mercer County.

The Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project is a project designed to sequester and permanently store carbon dioxide from Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant. The captured CO2 will be stored in the geologic formations of western North Dakota, which have been determined to be optimum for storage.

“The geology in western North Dakota is really well suited for the underground storage of CO2,” Kevin Solie, Basin Electric senior environmental compliance administrator, said. “Directly above and below the proposed injection site are nearly impervious 130-foot-thick rock formations that create tight seals that will keep the CO2 in place. And above that is nearly a mile of rock between the injection zone and the nearest fresh water zone. So once the CO2 is in the ground, everyone believes it’s there to stay.”
The project consists of two primary pieces: the Dakota Carbon Pipeline, a 6.8-mile pipeline that will carry captured CO2 from the synfuels plant to the permanent storage reservoir, and the injection well that will inject the carbon dioxide into the subsurface. The pipeline runs through reclaimed mine land owned by both Basin Electric and The Coteau Properties Company, with the injection wells located on Coteau Properties land.

As this project approaches, Basin Electric is working with Carbon Vault and the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) to put together an open house to help inform people about the nature and scope of the work. A presentation will be put on by the project team at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9 at the Beulah Civic Center.

“We’re really hoping that we’re able to address some of the questions that the general public has on CO2 sequestration,” Erin Laverdure, project coordinations representative with Basin Electric Power Cooperative, said. “This is going to be in our own backyard, with our own communities and neighbors. And they want to know what impact it’s going to have on the surface, on mineral rights, on property rights.”

Laverdure said these questions and others would be the focus of the presentation Wednesday.

“We want to let everybody know that our purpose is to ensure the safety of everyone in the process,” she said. “They will have an opportunity, not just to hear from the scientists, but also to ask them questions directly.”

While Basin Electric is handling the pipeline for transporting the captured CO2, the cooperative is working with Carbon Vault when it comes to the injection well. Carbon Vault is a subsidiary of Rampart Energy Company, which has been a contract oil and gas operator in North Dakota (and elsewhere) since 1990. Carbon Vault was created to act in the same capacity for CO2 sequestration projects.  With the Basin Electric Project, Carbon Vault will coordinate the permit application, drill and operate the CO2 injection wells and assist with long-term monitoring of the project.

EERC has been a partner of Basin Electric in an advisory capacity. The organization, a nonprofit division of the University of North Dakota, is a research facility for energy and environment technologies development. Laverdure said they also assist the state with the permitting process for these kind of projects.

When injected, the CO2 captured through the Great Plains Sequestration Project will be injected more than a mile below the surface in the Broom Creek Sandstone Formation. A test well was drilled at the site in June 2021.

Seismic testing is currently being conducted at the project site as part of the ongoing baseline monitoring operations. Seismic surveys are a tool geologists and geophysicists use to understand subsurface geology by looking at rock layers miles under the ground. The data from the testing will give a baseline reading of the geology and formations of the area where the CO2 will be injected.

Regulations will govern the process of how the CO2 is stored. In a press release Feb. 4, Basin Electric Power Cooperative said, “The Industrial Commission’s CO2 storage facility permit application is hundreds of pages long and deals with all aspects of safety and environmental protection. A test well and seismic survey are just two of the tests required in the application, and no CO2 can be injected until the Industrial Commission approves the application, which is expected to happen the second half of this year. If the Commission approves the application, upcoming seismic surveys will track the movement of the CO2 after it is injected to ensure it stays within the Broom Creek Formation, which evidence shows it will.”

While CO2 sequestration is new for Basin Electric, CO2 capture is not. The Synfuels Plant currently captures approximately 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, which are piped to Saskatchewan to use in enhanced oil recovery.

The Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project would not impact the current CO2 capture process at all, but will instead enable DGC’s power plant to capture an additional 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year for sequestration and permanent subsurface storage. This would make DGC’s project the first in the nation to use both enhanced oil recovery and geologic storage to address CO2 emissions.

“Dakota Gasification Company was already an early leader in CCUS (carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration), and this proposed expansion is another milestone in our state’s efforts to crack the code on this critical energy technology – the largest coal-based carbon capture project to use geologic storage,” U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) said during a press conference announcing the Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project.

In their press release, Basin Electric said the project will benefit the environment and the co-op.

“Environmental protection has always been a core value of Basin Electric. The cooperative advocated for responsible reclamation long before it was required by law, built and operates the largest wind project in the nation owned solely by a cooperative, and met 80 precent of its nearly 50 percent load growth with wind, natural gas, and market purchases,” the release said.

The project enables Basin Electric to make use of Section 45Q of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. As amended through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Section 45Q allows industrial facilities that capture a minimum of 500,000 metric tons of CO2 during the taxable year to claim a credit of $50 per metric ton of CO2 captured for secure geological storage, and $35 per metric ton for CO2 captured and used for enhanced oil recovery. Projects can claim the tax credit for up to 12 years from when CO2 capture begins.

“With the 45Q tax credit, the Great Plains CO2 Sequestration Project will definitely pay for itself,” Daniel Schaaf Gallagher, Basin Electric director of commodity sales and trading, said. “The rate of return is sufficient to recover all costs and provisions we will incur. The tax credit is a definite benefit to us. It will allow us to get the project up and running and start sequestering CO2 at no net cost to us. And, it will have significant positive impacts to Basin Electric and Dakota Gas as well.”

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