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Published May 15, 2013, 02:51 PM

Grand Forks, N.D., council hears fertilizer plant plans

Grand Forks (N.D.) City Council members Tuesday received a preview of the long list of preparations required to make a proposed $1.5 billion fertilizer plant near the city a reality.

By: Brandi Jewett, Forum News Service

Grand Forks (N.D.) City Council members Tuesday received a preview of the long list of preparations required to make a proposed $1.5 billion fertilizer plant near the city a reality.

The council’s Service and Safety Committee approved a letter of intent addressed to Northern Plains Nitrogen, the plant’s developer, which seeks to negotiate the terms of the city supplying the facility with water, and alter permits issued by state agencies.

“We need to get going with the permitting part,” said Director of Public Works Todd Feland. “We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

The plant will require 7.7 million gallons of water each day to operate, which the city will treat and discharge to the Red River.

The discharge changes requires the city to seek an amendment on a permit issued by the North Dakota Department of Health, along with acquiring a number of other permits from that agency, the city and the State Water Commission.

Safety concerns

An explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer facility that killed 14 people last month turned the topic of discussion to safety concerns regarding the plant.

Council member Tyrone Grandstrand questioned safety procedures of the facility.

“How do we know our water will be safe and clean?” he asked. “How do we know our community will be safe and clean?”

Larry Mackie, chief operating officer of Northern Plains Nitrogen, said the building in Texas and the building planned for Grand Forks are two different facilities, the former being a fertilizer distribution center and not a production plant.

“I can’t guarantee anything, but you can’t guarantee anything in life,” he said, adding the building will use the most up-to-date technology and safety processes.

Another concern discussed was the issue of a potential odor of ammonia being emitted from the plant. According to Mackie, a smell will not be an issue as any excess ammonia would enter a flare and be burned before reaching the outside.

An equipment failure could result in some ammonia escaping, but production in that area would be stopped and corrected immediately, he assured the council.

Other needs

Additional infrastructure needs also must be evaluated before construction on the plant can begin in 2015.

On the list was paving roads around the site, which is located northwest of the city. Paving one road and reconstructing another would be a $3 million to $4 million project, according to Feland.

A railroad link to the plant also would be constructed. Mackie said he would prefer the link to remain private, adding that the company would rather not have neighbors.

Feland noted the city and company also would have to work with the Grand Forks International Airport to address concerns over flight paths near the plant, the height of the plant and the water vapor it would release.

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