Ethanol neighbor to Coal Creek preparing for new relationship with plant

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 4:35 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - For the past few years, North Dakota’s political and energy leaders have tried to save Coal Creek Power Station in Underwood.

Last month, they found a buyer.

This doesn’t just give hope to the workers of that plant, but to other companies which rely on it.

And the industry it’s helping is getting some much-needed stability.

When plans for the purchase were announced, many focused on the people of Underwood, about 10 miles away.

However, there’s another energy plant sharing a property line, which also has a relationship from the plant, and the sale could shape its future.

Blue Flint Ethanol in Underwood produces more than 70 million gallons of ethanol every year, and is one of six ethanol plants in the state.

When its neighbor, Coal Creek, announced it was shutting down, it had ownership looking for options.

“Just like everyone else, all of a sudden there were questions. We’re attached to them. Of course we were vitally interested in the progress of those negotiations,” Midwest AgEnergy Chief Marketing Officer Phil Coffin said.

These two plants aren’t just neighbors; each provides a service to the other.

Coal Creek supplies steam and energy to the ethanol plant.

The president of the purchasing company acknowledged the relationship when the sale was made public last month.

“We do have a steam contract in place right now with Blue Flint, and we want to be partners. We want to be able to provide them with the steam necessary for their process,” Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation President Stacy L. Tschider said.

Blue Flint said Coal Creek has been a reliable partner, but a new buyer could lead to changes in their deal.

Details on any continuation of their relationship are not public yet, but he referred to the two plants as “Siamese twins.”

The two plants may have more in common once the sale of Coal Creek is complete. The buyer said they want to install carbon capture technologies to the plant in coming years, which is something its ethanol neighbors are already installing for their operations.

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