Project Tundra gets go-ahead with $15 million from the Lignite Energy Council

The Lignite Energy Council is funding its biggest project yet. At Thursday’s council meeting, Minnkota Power Cooperative was approved for $15 million to fund a new gas capture system. The council has just over $16 million in funds, meaning the project will nearly deplete its account. But officials says they've been working toward funding big projects like this for a while.

The total project cost is just over $31 million, and when it's all completed, it's expected to be worth more than $45 million. Project officials say the annual tax and revenue will generate more than $46 million each year and more than 2,700 jobs are expected to be generated during construction. The project looks to solve one of the coal industry's biggest problems.

Plans for a project to implement a 95-percent carbon capture and preserve the use of lignite coal are in the works. It's dubbed Project Tundra, and it's for a FEED study, or a front end engineering design for a carbon capture system.

“This is one of the first large cracks at solving one of the significant problems for the coal industry in North Dakota,” said Jason Bohrer, Lignite Energy Council president and CEO.

The project would be installed at the Milton R Young unit 2 near Center. On top of $15 million in funding from the energy council, a little over $1 million will be coming from partners, and then the group will be requesting $15 million from the Department of Energy. If they don't get the DOE funds, they say they'll re-assess. Project leaders say it'll put the state at the forefront of post-combustion carbon capture.

“This isn't that common on the planet, this is actually something that you might think of as a little bit of a strategic advantage,” said John Harju, Energy and Environmental Research Center.

Three independent researchers all recommended funding the 32-month-long project, which was approved unanimously. It will go before the state Industrial Commission on Tuesday for final approval.