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Lignite Research, Development & Marketing
Program Projects


Grants since the program's inception in 1987 have been used to:

  • Help diversify the Great Plains Synfuels Plant;

  • Improve methods for more efficient & cost-effective reclamation;

  • Find cleaner ways to burn lignite in existing boilers;

  • Identify new market opportunities; and

  • Meet new challenges from proposed environmental regulations.

Projects involve either lignite marketing feasibility studies, small research projects or demonstration projects.

Lignite Marketing Feasibility Studies
Nonmatching marketing feasibility study funds are used to identify near-term private matching projects, to support environmental studies, and to identify new markets for lignite-derived products and byproducts. Approximately $500,000 is available for marketing feasibility studies in the present biennium. Over 30 marketing studies have been funded since this nonmatching program was initiated in 1991. Some past marketing feasibility studies have:

  • Leland Olds StationIdentified markets for activated carbon produced from lignite. Lignite-derived activated carbon performs well under testing conditions; and

  • Identified markets for byproducts recovered from the Great Plains Synfuels Plant including 3-methylcatechol and 4-methylcatechol. These catechols are used in the manufacture of flavors (vanilla extract), insecticides (carbofuran) and pharmaceuticals (L-dopa).

Click here for a list of lignite marketing feasibility studies.

Small Research Projects
Approximately $1.8 million is available during the present biennium for small research projects. These funds are matched by private industrial investment. Approximately $6.6 million in R&D funds has been used for small research projects since 1987, matching nearly $32 million in private industry investment. Thus, every $1 funded by the state of North Dakota is matched by $4.8 in private industry investment. Small research projects are focused on environmental issues, combustion, reclamation, byproducts and beneficiation. Some of the past small research project studies include:

  • Evaluating combustion in cyclone utility boilers. This has resulted in techniques to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The studies confirmed that significant NOx reductions could be accomplished by modifying cyclone combustion. Results of the research provide a more cost-effective option for meeting new NOx emission standards. Nearly 37 percent of North Dakota's lignite-generation capacity is from cyclone boilers.


  • Coal CreekEvaluating markets and uses for fly ash. With the assistance of several marketing and characterization studies, Cooperative Power has increased the use of Coal Creek Station fly ash from 63,000 tons in 1990 to over 150,000 tons in 1998, while the value of the flyash marketed increased from $400,000 to $1,200,000.

  • Cooperative Power evaluated a process for converting flue gas desulfurization (FGD) sludge to produce gypsum. Marketing studies have identified market opportunities and thus Cooperative Power is proceeding with plans to construct and operate a first-of-a-kind clean coal demonstration project. The facility will produce wallboard grade gypsum from FGD sludge.

  • A series of studies have lead to increased sales of cresols, a liquid byproduct from the Great Plains Synfuels plant. Over 33 million gallons are sold annually, generating $9 to $12 million in revenue for the Great Plains Synfuels Plant.

  • Reclamation research supports practices that preserve productivity of the land and reduce reclamation costs. Two recent studies evaluated reclamation success on grasslands. The study compares herbaceous yield, cover and diversity to soil depth on reclaimed grassland. The studies conclude current soil redistribution depths for silty soils or reclaimed permanent grasslands are excessive. Reclamation research supports revised regulations that reduced the depth of soil required for cropland. Research supported permanent adoption of the regulations and provided reclamation cost savings.

Click here for a list of all small research projects.

Demonstration Projects
The North Dakota Legislature appropriates funds and other forms of financial assistance for clean coal demonstration projects. Since the program was initiated in 1987, nine projects have received funding of nearly $20 million. The total cost for the nine demonstration projects is nearly $230 million. Thus, each state dollar generates $11 of total demonstration project funds.

  • Synfuels PlantDakota Gasification Company received $12.3 million to assist the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in the conversion of a portion of the synthetic natural gas stream to produce anhydrous ammonia - a fertilizer used by farmers in North Dakota and surrounding states (funding for the project was provided in the form of an $8.1 million grant and a $4.2 million investment). This will enable Great Plains to increase byproduct diversification, and to increase gross byproducts receipts (photo of Great Plains Synfuels Plant).

Click here for a list of all demonstration projects.



1016 E. Owens Avenue, PO Box 2277, Bismarck, ND 58502 i (701) 258-7117 or 1-800-932-7117 i Fax: (701) 258-2755