North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple announced yesterday that the agribusiness company CHS Inc. plans to build a $1.2 billion fertilizer plant in eastern North Dakota near Spiritwood. It should be completed in 2016, and create from 100 to 150 jobs.
The plant will be a positive development in terms of utilizing some of the wasted natural gas being flared in the Bakken region. Almost one third of natural gas released during the fracking process is burned off, or flared, at the wellhead. The new gas-to-fertilizer plant will both capture and use this wasted resource, and also provide a needed resource to local farmers.
“This is obviously not only good news for those who want to see economic development in North Dakota, but (for) farmers and ranchers,” Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple said officials first began discussing the idea of building the plant with the state a few months ago. Using natural gas from the Bakken oil play in western North Dakota, the plant would be able to produce about 2,200 tons of anhydrous ammonia per day. The plant would be able to supply anhydrous ammonia, urea and liquid fertilizer to retailers and farmers throughout the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota and Canada.
CHS president and CEO Carl Casale said that the low price of natural gas and the relatively high price of anhydrous amonia makes the plant more economically viable than in the past. “A project like this wouldn’t even have been conceivable a decade ago,” Casale said.
The company is currently working on a $10 million feasibility study, after which time an engineering study will be done, followed by construction. This would seem to be good news for the local environment, conservation, as well as local farmers. At the very least, it’s good to see a valuable resource being utilized, as opposed to just burned off like a waste product as it currently is.