The Coal Creek Station and Great River Energy may get a new lease on operational life.

Governor Doug Burgum today said Great River Energy is in “exclusive negotiations” to sell Coal Creek Station and Great River Energy’s high-voltage, direct current transmission system.

If the sale goes through, the unidentified buyer would continue to operate Coal Creek Station and Great River Energy would not shut it down.

Response to the news, from Congress to the state level, has been supportive.

“This is wonderful news for Coal Creek Station’s employees, their local communities and the entire state of North Dakota,” Burgum said. “Great River Energy has had a positive impact on North Dakota’s energy and agriculture industries for more than 40 years.”

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who has also been working to keep Coal Creek Station operating in one form or another, said the potential sale is good news — and an opportunity.

“Coal Creek Station is one of the most efficient power plants in our region, and the employees at both the plant and the Falkirk Mine help keep the lights on with affordable and reliable power,” Hoeven said in a statement. “This is a big step and we hope it will be finalized soon. At the same time, Coal Creek presents yet another opportunity for North Dakota to crack the code on carbon capture technologies, allowing us to continue utilizing our abundant coal resources while reducing emissions.”

North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer, reacting to the news, said, “I am glad to see progress is being made to find a buyer for Coal Creek Station who will keep it up and running. North Dakotans need Coal Creek, and the American people need coal. I hope the negotiations continue successfully and a deal is able to be struck soon.”

In May 2020, Great River Energy announced plans to retire Coal Creek Station, a 1,151-megawatt coal generating power plant in Underwood, during the second half of 2022.

Coal Creek Station has been in operation since 1979 and employs 240 people. North American Coal’s nearby Falkirk Mine, the lignite coal supplier to Coal Creek, employs about 450 people.

Since May, Burgum and Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford have been working with Great River Energy to find ways to keep the plant operating.

The potential buyer Great River Energy is negotiating with plans to pursue carbon capture and sequestration. This is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from power plants or industrial processes and injecting it into deep underground rock formations that trap the gas and prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere.

Just this week, Burgum signed Senate Bill 2152, which provides a sales tax exemption for carbon dioxide used for secure geologic storage, providing an incentive to continue developing North Dakota’s abundant lignite coal resources in an environmentally sound manner.

North Dakota is the first state in the nation to receive approval from the Environmental Protection Agency) to regulate geologic storage of carbon dioxide.

Last month, Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions announced the world’s largest carbon capture and storage project, a pipeline network that would capture more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide annually from ethanol plants in four states and transport it to North Dakota for underground storage. Tharaldson Ethanol near Casselton is among the partners in the $2 billion project.