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Published June 25, 2014, 09:36 AM

Proposed CHS plant issued air quality permit

The North Dakota Department of Health issued an air pollution control permit to construct for the proposed CHS nitrogen fertilizer plant in Spiritwood, N.D., on June 20.

By: Keith Norman, Agweek

The North Dakota Department of Health issued an air pollution control permit to construct for the proposed CHS nitrogen fertilizer plant in Spiritwood, N.D., on June 20.

Craig Thorstenson, environmental engineer with the Department of Health, Division of Air Quality, says the permit covers construction and operation of the plant but requires construction to begin within 18 months.

The proposed plant would utilize natural gas produced in western North Dakota to produce nitrogen fertilizer. The original cost estimates for the plant totaled about $1.2 billion but have increased to nearly $2 billion. The project would be the largest ever constructed in North Dakota, if built.

CHS announced a delay in making a final decision on the project in April, citing significantly higher-than-expected construction and labor cost estimates. At the time, the company said it was evaluating options for reducing construction costs and approving profitability.

The planned project was originally announced in September 2012. The application for the air quality permit was made in August 2013.

“CHS continues to review all project parameters prior to making, or announcing, any final decision,” says Annette Degnan, marketing communications director for CHS. “Numerous permit applications were filed within the past year and those being issued now were anticipated as part of overall regulatory approvals.”

Thorstenson says the permit application drew one comment asking for a delay in issuing the permit.

Greg Gackle, listing addresses of Bettendorf, Iowa, and Spiritwood Lake, N.D., asked that the permit be delayed and the proposed plant’s emissions of greenhouse gases be analyzed. Gackle says the plant would emit nearly 1 million tons of the gases each year.

The state Health Department denied the request.

“The results of our review show that the CHS facility will be applying the best control technology available to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” writes Terry O’Clair, director, Division of Air Quality. “The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) conducted a review of the analysis and draft permit to ensure that all regulatory requirements (both state and federal) were met.”

If CHS moves forward with the project in the next 18 months, its air quality permit would be in place. The permit will expire if construction does not start in that period.

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