Basin Electric Power Cooperative (Basin Electric) has received $300 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a carbon-dioxide (CO2) capture project. Basin Electric is working with a technology provider to capture emissions of CO2 from a conventional coal-based power plant. The technology is now being tested on a pilot basis, and based on results of those tests, would be expanded to a demonstration project at the Antelope Valley Station.

The announcement was made by Ed Schafer, secretary of USDA. Clean, efficient coal fired generating plants are an important component in America’s efforts to achieve energy independence, he said. The money will be used to finance development of a demonstration project for capturing CO2 at Basin Electric’s Antelope valley station near Beulah, North Dakota.

Ron Harper, Basin Electric chief executive officer and general manager, praised the USDA commitment and commended Secretary Schafer. This loan will continue to make coal an integral part of Basin Electric’s and this country’s energy future, he said.

We’ve been pushing the technology envelope for years to ensure that coal remains a part of our energy future, but we must also keep an eye on consumer electric costs. Developing new technologies takes time and a huge financial commitment, Harper said.

This loan is vitally important for three reasons. One, it helps to keep consumer costs affordable by providing low-cost funding. Second, it helps for the continuing development of clean-coal technologies. Third, it sets an example for other federal agencies to emulate.

A commercially viable technology for CO2 capture from conventional coal-based plants isn’t yet available. Harper points out that Basin Electric is working very hard in the development and demonstration of carbon capture technology. Our demonstration project has the potential to not only create a viable path for coal in our nation’s energy future, but it could position the United States as a model for other countries to emulate, he said. The conundrum for us lies in paying for the technology and research necessary to do this work, while keeping electricity affordable for our member-owners. This is why the assistance and commitment from USDA is critically important for us and our member consumers.

The Antelope Valley Station is located adjacent to the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, the only commercial-scale coal gasification plant in the United States and home to the largest carbon capture project in the world. More than three million tons of CO2 are captured annually and piped to Canada for use in enhanced oil recovery. The demonstration project being developed at Antelope Valley would capture about a million tons of CO2 per year from a portion of the plant’s exhaust stream and send it to oil fields along the pipeline being used by the Synfuels Plant.

Harper said federal assistance with funding for clean coal technologies is vital. USDA is taking a lead role, setting the example for other federal agencies to follow.

We believe we can protect the climate and maintain a strong economy, but it will require a balanced approach in which consumers continue to conserve, the industry continues to invest in and apply the new technologies, and the government introduces the kind of legislation that will allow for more rapid advancements while avoiding crippling and economically devastating timelines, Harper says.