Monday, January 1, 2018 12:00 AM
A record-setting year at BNI’s Center Mine helped propel total lignite production in North Dakota to a banner year in 2017.
The Center Mine produced more than 4.65 million tons in 2017, topping its previous record of 4.60 million tons in 2002. Together, North Dakota’s five mines produced 29.1 million tons of lignite in 2017, which was the highest annual tonnage since 2009.
Wade Boeshans, president and general manager of BNI Energy, said 2017 was a milestone year for BNI on many fronts: sales, profitability, project execution, safety and environmental performance, and costs to customers that were 7 percent below budget.
“These results are a true reflection of our team’s commitment to the right results, the right way,” Boeshans said. “Our strategy for our mining operations going into the year was to focus on safe, efficient and cost-competitive operations. We knew that we had to effectively execute this strategy while living our values to bend our cost curve and position our customers to compete in a very competitive power market. I’m very proud of our team, their commitment to our values and strategy, and the results they delivered in 2017.”
BNI celebrated its achievement on January 11 with a fleischkuekle feed at the mine and the company also purchased vests for all BNI employees. The Center Mine feeds the adjacent Milton R. Young Station, which recorded its second highest peak for most electricity generated in a single year over the past 40 years. The Minnkota Power Cooperative’s power plant had an extended maintenance outage in 2016 and a number of major outages in recent years as it invested more than $425 million in environmental upgrades, but there were no major outages in 2017.
Here’s what other North Dakota mines produced in 2017, according to the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune:
- Freedom Mine north of Beulah, the largest lignite mine in the United States, produced and sold more than 14.7 million tons of lignite to the Antelope Valley Station, Leland Olds Station and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. All three plants are owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
- The Falkirk Mining Co. near Underwood produced 7.2 million tons, which were sold to Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station and Spiritwood Station.
- The Coyote Creek Mine sold 2.1 million tons to Otter Tail Power Co.’s Coyote Station. North American Coal Corp. owns the Freedom Mine, the Falkirk Mine and the Coyote Creek Mine.
Dakota Westmoreland’s Beulah Mine sold 437,000 tons to Montana-Dakota’s Heskett Station north of Mandan.
North Dakota’s seven lignite-based power plants generate enough electricity to serve 2 million families in North Dakota and surrounding states.
“The lignite industry is unique in that our plants are generally adjacent to the mines, which reduces transportation costs,” Jason Bohrer, president of the Lignite Energy Council, said in a statement. “It also
means our state benefits from the jobs associated from both the mines and the power plants along with low-cost, reliable electricity generated from lignite.”
BNI Employee Celebration
Sunday, October 1, 2017 12:00 AM
BNI Coal received the North Dakota Award for Excellence in Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation from the Public Service Commission at the Annual Fall Meeting of the Lignite Energy Council. BNI received the award for “Reclaiming an Inert Waste Disposal Facility at the Center Mine.”
The waste disposal facility was a mining pit that was permitted under mining regulations. It was mined in the late 1990s. After coal removal, BNI removed the acreage from the mining permit. Minnkota Power then permitted the area as a waste disposal facility under the Department of Health. The disposal facility was designed to support 30 years of bottom ash production from the Milton R. Young Station. As new markets for bottom ash developed, Minnkota no longer needed the area for ash disposal.
To reclaim this area, BNI analyzed several different scenarios and determined that redisturbing and reshaping previously reclaimed land around the ash cell was the most cost-effective option. This option required significant permit revisions. These revisions laid out the plan for restriping previously mined areas around the ash cell and cutting out areas of spoil to fill the pit. BNI opened up 86 acres of previously reclaimed land surrounding the ash cell as a borrow area.
Approximately ten feet of spoil material was removed from the area and used to help fill in the pit. The topography of the borrow area was then reshaped to blend the newly reclaimed area into the surrounding reclamation land.
All told, BNI removed 8 stockpiles, most of which were twenty or more years old. 2.9 million cubic yards of spoil were required to fill the cell, which required BNI to move over 1 million cubic yards of soil a year beginning in 2015. After initial seeding, which will be done in the spring of 2018, BNI will be able to initiate the 10 year liability period on almost two sections of land that was being used for the ash cell, stockpiles, diversions, and roads. This land will then be eligible for final bond release.
“This is a great example of the lignite industry going above and beyond regulatory requirements. By working together, and with multiple agencies, BNI and Minnkota have returned this land to a more productive use,” says Jay Volk, BNI Environmental Manager. “Our Environmental and Engineering departments did a great job working under the jurisdictions of two different state regulatory agencies during the permitting process. Our equipment operators and supervisors in the field have done an excellent job as well. At times, we had two excavators and six end-dump trucks hauling through this area, along with numerous dozers and motor graders. Their commitment to safety during this project has been fantastic, and we’re currently at 469 days and counting without a lost time accident.”
The Center Mine also received a Distinguished Safety Award for 2016 from the LEC. Distinguished Safety Awards are awarded to lignite mines and power plants that have accident rates lower than the national average. BNI achieved a .063 accident rate in 2016.
Jay Volk, Stephanie Griffin, and Jon Rudnick accept the Award for Excellence in Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation from Public Service Commissioner