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Why lignite coal?

Lignite is more accessible than other types of coal because

  • lignite veins are located relatively near the surface, eliminating the need for underground excavation in tunnels. 
  • surface mining also eliminates the risk of methane or carbon monoxide buildup, a primary safety concern in underground mining

North Dakota lignite mines have produced more than 30 million tons for the past seven straight years.

Taking on the energy challenge

Without coal there wouldn't be a Great Plains Synfuels Plant.  The nearby Freedom Mine, owned and operated by the Coteau Properties Company, supplies lignite coal to Dakota Gas' Great Plains Synfuels Plant and other Basin Electric power plants in the area.

America is at a critical crossroads about energy made from fossil fuels. Coal gasification is being attempted elsewhere for use in generating electricity and producing other fuels with the intention of reducing our country's dependence on both foreign oil and natural gas. Climate change legislation mandating carbon capture and storage is going to dramatically affect the cost of energy to consumers.

America has more than a 800-year supply of coal that is currently accessible and economically feasible to recover. Use of this abundant domestic resource is being challenged around the globe. The Great Plains Synfuels Plant is a model of how coal can be used to produce energy in an efficient and environmentally responsible manner.

Each day the Synfuels Plant converts approximately 18,000 tons of lignite coal into an average 145 million cubic feet of synthetic natural gas for home heating and electricity generation. Dakota Gasification Company's parent company, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, has invested more than $834 million in plant upgrades and improved environmental controls since purchasing the plant in 1988.

Experienced and dedicated employees at the Synfuels Plant have many years of hands-on operating experience in converting lignite coal into synthetic natural gas and other valuable coproducts. Learn more about how they do it.

Coal-based energy industries also provide a good living for employees and the communities that support gasification and power plant facilities. According to a recent study published by the Lignite Energy Council:

"Average mining wages in Mercer County were $80,949 in 2008, increasing from $76,403 in 2007. Mercer County is the home of the nation’s largest lignite mine, The Coteau Properties Company’s Freedom Mine, and the Beulah Mine, owned by Westmoreland Coal Company."

"Average wages for electric production workers in 2008 averaged $74,879 annually. The combination of mining and electric production wages puts the lignite industry among those paying the highest wages in North Dakota, substantially higher than the state’s average wage of $35,075 in 2008."

The world has begun to notice Dakota Gas achievements of the past 25 years: we are gasifying coal into clean-burning energy for a profit, and capturing and transporting almost 50 percent of the plant's carbon dioxide emissions since 2000, also for profit.  For many utilities meeting the demands of environmental legislation is a beginner's game. Not so at Dakota Gas: solutions to carbon mitigation challenges facing many energy providers, lawmakers, regulators, and governments today have been addressed and successfully implemented by Dakota Gasification Company.

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Crown Jewel

“The strategic value {of the Synfuels Plant} to our country is immense and very difficult to put a price tag on. That plant and what we learned there, is a good model for what could and should be done. It is the ‘crown jewel’ of the United States’ efforts to wean itself off energy from foreign sources."

~ Kurt Yeager, former CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute

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