Basin Electric Wants To Build Natural Gas Power Plant In North Dakota


North Dakota is a coal state. Coal mining is an important part of the state’s economy. Roughly 87% of the power for the state’s energy grid comes from coal, which is why North Dakota has long enjoyed some of the cheapest power rates in the nation.

But nationally an energy boom, made possible by new production techniques like hydraulic fracturing, has opened up entire oceans of new natural gas reserves. That means prices for natural gas have plummeted, and the impact on the energy markets has been profound. Natural gas is replacing coal power because it’s cheaper and cleaner burning, and it now seems that trend is now coming to North Dakota:

BISMARCK — Basin Electric Power Cooperative wants to build a new electric power plant near Watford City in western North Dakota.

The project includes two turbines that would be powered by natural gas. They would be capable of generating up to 90 megawatts of electricity.

North Dakota’s Public Service Commission said Wednesday it’s received a notice from Basin that it wants to build the project. The commission must approve the plans before construction starts.

That’s a relative small plant. By comparison, North Dakota’s largest power plant is the coal-fired Coal Creek Station near Washburn (owned by Great River Energy) which puts out a combined 1,100 megawatts between its two units.

Still, it’s a sign of things to come, especially with the Bakken oil fields flaring off so much natural gas that is just going to waste.

Natural gas is every bit as reliable as coal (unlike wind or solar), and it’s cheaper and cleaner-burning to boot.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • mikemc1970

    Not to mention Obama’s war to put all American coal miners out of work, is naturally going to make it more expensive to build a coal fired plant.

  • Deficit Hawk

    It is cheaper now, but coal is not subject to market fluctuations as most coal fired plants have cost+ contracts. Coal has more price stability and sustainability. As an indirect Basin employee, I wish they would go coal based instead.

    • Rob

      That’s interesting. The petroleum markets are certainly more volatile, historically, but the sheer amount of natural gas on the market these days (not to mention the amount of natural gas being produced right in ND) would seem to negate that concern.

      • Deficit Hawk

        Nat Gas has doubled in price in the last six months. Also it has industrial purposes like fertilizer and plastics that add to the volatility. Electricity because of its regulated utility commodity nature does not react well with end users without stable predictable feedstock. This proposal looks to be a peaking station so I guess I am OK with it. A baseload station would be a different story.

  • DWHoover

    I will believe in the reliability of wind or solar power when I see Air Force One powered by either.

    • Rob

      Exactly. When has a coal or nuclear or natural gas power plant ever been replaced by solar or wind?

      Hint: They haven’t, because you can’t count on solar or wind.

  • spud

    Also CHS is building a nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant valued at over 1 billion dollars in North Dakota using natural gas. Should be up and running by second half of 2016 with 150 new jobs to start up with.

  • Dakotacyr

    But…but…but..Heitkamp hates fossil fuels. But yet she has been on the Basin board of Directors for years.

    • Rob

      That won’t stop her from doing exactly what Harry Reid tells her.

      • dakotacyr

        wanna bet? Still smarting over the loss, eh?

        • ND in MD

          Sorry dakota, but the fact is: Harry Reid owns Heidi.
          He invested a lot of money in her race and he owns her.

    • CG

      Heidi is a director on the Dakota Gasification Board. DGC is a subsidiary of Basin, but still a separate entity.

  • Tim Heise

    This is good news.

  • cylde

    Some years ago i believe that they had a coal to gas power plant but they might have shut it down because of high cost operation, but the turbine would run as well or better on natural gas.

  • WOOF

    Basin Electric Power COOPERATIVE.
    Hippie electric.
    Produced by rubbing cats with rubber combs,
    “operates the Great Plains Synfuels Plant,
    which captures and sequesters nearly
    50% of its carbon dioxide emissions
    2009, Basin Electric finished construction on a 77 turbine
    wind energy project”