Lignite Energy Council: Maintaining a Viable Lignite Coal Industry

More electricity in North Dakota is generated with coal than with any other fuel. In fact, the state continues to be one of the country’s top coal-producing states, mining approximately 30 million tons every year since 1988.

Most of the region’s electricity is generated from lignite across seven power plants in North Dakota and one in eastern Montana. Fifteen years ago, the Lignite Energy Council created the Lignite Vision 21 Program as an endeavor to revitalize growth in the lignite industry.

The program’s main purpose is to promote the latest advanced coal technology for a rapidly growing region fueled by environmentally responsible lignite energy conversion facilities. Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station, a combined heat and power plant, was built under the Lignite Vision 21 Program.

Spiritwood is the first of its kind in North Dakota, producing both electricity and steam. Its primary fuel source is lignite coal, which has been converted to a higher-efficiency fuel using the company’s DryFiningTM technology to reduce the moisture content and remove dense particles from the lignite. Spiritwood Station also uses advanced technologies, including a circulating fluidized bed boiler; selective non-catalytic reduction technologies to reduce NOx emissions; a spray dryer absorber to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions; and a high-efficiency baghouse to collect particulate matter.

Combined heat and power plants such as Spiritwood are highly energy efficient because they make use of the energy in the steam that, at most plants, is released to cooling towers. Most conventional coal-based power plants are 30 to 35 percent efficient, while Spiritwood is 40 to 66 percent efficient depending on the amount of steam provided to customers in the Spiritwood Energy Park.

In addition to reduced emissions, lower transportation costs and lower maintenance costs, Spiritwood uses state-of-the-art technologies that make it one of the cleanest and most efficient coal-based power plants in the world.