Project Tundra team testifies to strength of storage permit application

November 3, 2021

Nearly a dozen experts in power production, geology and engineering gathered in Bismarck, N.D., on Nov. 2 to testify on behalf of Minnkota Power Cooperative’s permit application for the geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Members of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division hosted an hours-long hearing to discuss the storage plans of Project Tundra, Minnkota’s proposal to capture CO2 from its coal-based Young Station and store it safely and permanently thousands of feet underground. The permit application, submitted by Minnkota earlier this year, will ultimately require approval from the state Industrial Commission, which oversees the Oil and Gas Division.

“We’re going to live in a world where we’re going to have to manage the carbon out of our assets or we’re going to have to replace those assets,” Minnkota CEO Mac McLennan told the regulators. “That’s where Tundra originally got its start – the recognition that we would need to manage our CO2 from those facilities.”

McLennan and Minnkota special projects counsel Shannon Mikula (geologic storage lead for Project Tundra) were joined in testimony by project partners from the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and Oxy Low Carbon Ventures. The team spoke to the components of the application and fielded questions from the panel, spanning landowner approvals to CO2 plume monitoring.

“We held a number of individual meetings with landowners as well as public meetings and landowner-specific meetings out in Center, [N.D.],” Mikula said of steps taken to communicate the initiative to those who would be touched by the project. Minnkota currently has 79% approval of pore space owners in the planned storage area, surpassing the minimum 60% needed under lease.

Minnkota's Shannon Mikula answers questions for hearing attendees during a break in testimony. (Minnkota)

EERC representatives guided regulators through a series of technical geologic, seismic and storage reservoir exhibits contained in the permit application, detailing the multiple layers of data gathering and subsurface analysis they performed on the Broom Creek and Deadwood formations targeted for injection.

“Based on the information I’ve seen, and that I’ve presented today, the depth is adequate for CO2 storage,” testified Steven Smith, EERC principal geologist for Integrated Analytical Solutions. He added that the sought depth is important, because it helps to keep CO2 in a state which allows for more efficient injection and plume footprint throughout the project lifespan. “The thickness is adequate to handle the proposed 4 million tons per year of injection. The salinity is high enough where you are not concerned about any of the sources of fresh drinking water. And the porosity and permeability are excellent in the formation.”

Project Tundra’s storage permit application displayed solid planning in terms of geology and engineering, but also in terms of proactive risk mitigation, consistent monitoring and emergency response planning for any unlikely issues. Testimony made it evident that project planners were keeping the protection of people, the environment and water as their highest priority.

The project team has an opportunity refine the permit application with supplemental information requested by the hearing panel by mid-November. Following permit approval, Minnkota estimates engineering of the Project Tundra to be completed by mid-2022, with a final decision on moving forward with the project to made by the end of 2022.