Beulah, ND — Dakota Gas

UPDATED: 10/01/2018 – see Change Log

OWNER: Dakota Gasification Company (Basin Electric Power Cooperative)
PROJECT: Ammonia plant, urea brownfield [memberful does_not_have_subscription=”1314-ammonia-industry-annual-subscription,1311-ammonia-industry-monthly-subscription,3338-ammonia-industry-30-day-subscription”]

COST (reported): $2.1 billion in 1984, Great Plains Synfuels Plant
JOB CREATION (reported): 680 permanent — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE (reported): 1984 site, 1991 Ammonia

COST (reported): $740 million
JOB CREATION (reported): 60 permanent, 750 construction — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE (reported): 2018

Ammonia 355,000 mtpy 400,000 stpy [Membership required] [Membership required]
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia,
[2] Company website.
[3] [Membership required]. Sources: linked below.
[4] [Membership required]. See Methodology.


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Dakota Gasification Company’s new urea plant started up early in 2018, when granular urea became the 11th product made at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant (DEF became the 12th). Fertilizers now represent more than 50% of the entire plant’s expected revenues. Construction on the new urea plant began in Summer 2014, and would have been completed by mid-2017 but destructive storms flattened the new urea storage building in 2016, which had to be demolished and the foundations ripped out before construction could restart. A small ammonia expansion was completed during the project.

COST: $2.1 billion 1984, Great Plains Synfuels Plant
JOB CREATION: 680 permanent — see Job Openings [LINK]
START-UP DATE: Site built 1984, Ammonia byproduct 1991, Ammonia plant 1997

COST: $740 million, was $402 million
JOB CREATION: 50 permanent, 750 construction — see Job Openings [LINK]
LIKELIHOOD: Done — see Methodology

Ammonia 355,000 mtpy 1,150 stpd
400,000 stpy
380,791 mtpy
After urea start-up:

169,026 mtpy NET
Urea 1,100 stpd 1,100 stpd 364,235 mtpy GROSS
DEF 64 million gal/yr 275 stpd 91,059 mtpy
Ammonium Sulfate 400 stpd 132,449 mtpy
Units: stpd, stpy, mtpd, mtpy = short/metric tons per day/year.
[1] United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Yearbook, Nitrogen gives capacity in metric tons per year, calculated as “engineering design capacity adjusted for 340 days per year of effective production capability,” rounded to three significant digits. Source: most recent year, Table 4: Domestic Producers of Ammonia,
[2] Company website.
[3] ND Health, Air Quality: Permit To Construct. Sources: linked below.
[4] Adjusted Capacity is in metric tons per year assuming operations for 365 days per year; based on reported/permitted daily capacity. See Methodology.

END PRODUCTS: Syngas, Ammonia, Ammonium sulfate, Urea, DEF, CO2, etc

The new urea plant at Dakota Gasification Company started up in early 2018, and successfully ramped up production during the spring. To improve sales and distribution, “DGC” launched a joint-venture with Dutch producer OCI NV, which owns the nitrogen plants in Beaumont, TX, and Wever, IA, called simply N7.

Back in January 2018, the contractors remaining on-site at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in Beulah were busy “commissioning various parts of the plant — pumps, motors, compressors,” for imminent start-up of the new $740 million granular urea plant.

In January 2014, Dakota Gas had approved construction of a new urea plant with a capacity of 1,100 short tons per day, which it originally expected to start up in the first quarter of 2017. However, after the new storage building was flattened by storms in July 2016, start-up was pushed back. According to the update of its website in January 2017, parent company Basin Electric claimed that the urea plant was “on schedule for commercial operation in the first quarter of 2018.”

According to local news in November 2016:

Production of urea may be set back by the fierce summer storm … The storm’s 76 mph winds so severely damaged a 53,000-ton storage building that it had to be completely demolished from the crumpled steel right down to the deep underground foundation piers.

“We did an assessment, and it was decided that was what we had to do to make the site safe. Three months’ worth of work was torn down in three weeks,” said Greer, who couldn’t comment on the value of that building because it’s under an insurance settlement.

The storage building won’t be done until early 2018, a full half year later than the urea process plant.

“Now we’re evaluating what we can do with production next year because storage is part of the production flow. There’s been no decision yet,” Greer said.

The project cost had increased significantly in June 2015, when the board of Dakota Gas “approved a new budget of $500 million,” a 25% increase over the original $402 million budget, primarily because “construction bids came in higher than estimated.”

However, since January 2017, project capex has stood at $740 million, more than 80% above the original budget. The additional costs were presumably the result of storm damage, but it isn’t clear how much of this money might be recouped through insurance claims.

The FEED study was complete in October 2013. The air permit was issued in April 2014. The project broke ground in July 2014 and, by June 2015, engineering design was “about two-thirds complete.”

In August 2015, AECOM announced that it had been awarded the contract to “provide construction services,” through its subsidiary, URS.

Stamicarbon is licensing the urea technology.

The plant will also begin producing DEF. Additionally, the project includes construction of a new CO2 liquefaction plant, with a capacity of 200 short tons per day; this provides backup CO2 for the urea plant and “up to 100 tons per day of liquid CO2 sales by truck.”

Dakota Gas made improvements to its ammonia plant during a major turnaround in August 2015. At that time, KBR had also begun an “extensive review” of the plant, in March 2015, and KBR made its recommendations in August 2015, which aimed to get “closer to the original operating conditions of the plant when it was in Fort Madison” (see below). This project, which was implemented in July and August 2016, was designed to create improvements in efficiency and reliability.

While these improvements have not necessarily increased the plant’s daily rated production capacity, they may prove to increase its annual production capacity, by decreasing the number of days maintenance required each year (if that’s not clear, see my explanation of capacity).

The work included installing new compressors and turbine work. Jeremy Baranko, Dakota Gas Rotating Equipment Engineer, said the new compressors provide additional efficiency because of advances in modern design and machining.

“The new compressor’s much lower vibration amplitudes can also be attributed to the integration of modern technology, such as a squeeze film damper,” Baranko said. “The reliability improvements are largely seen through the new compressor’s dry gas seal system, replacing the original compressor’s oil seals” …

Recent improvements have reduced the net energy requirement to run the ammonia plant by an average of 4 percent. At full rates, producing 1,150 tons of anhydrous ammonia per day, the net energy requirement has reduced by more than 6 percent.
Basin Electric: Dakota Gas ammonia plant work increases efficiency and reliability, 01/24/2017

Following a minor turnaround on the ammonia plant in late February 2017, “the unit is producing about 1,100 tons of anhydrous ammonia daily.”

In its Mineral Yearbook: Nitrogen 2014, published in November 2016, USGS actually derated capacity at the Beulah ammonia plant, from 363,000 mtpy down to 355,000 mtpy. This presumably reflected actual production at the plant and brings the USGS estimation of capacity exactly in line with the company’s announced capacity of 1,150 stpd (assuming operations for 340 days per year).

The new urea plant could consume over 210,000 mtpy of ammonia per year, so there will be a significant decrease in marketable ammonia, from around 380,000 mtpy to roughly 170,000 mtpy if producing at capacity.

The plant’s agricultural products are distributed by rail and truck to local farmers, within a 250-mile radius target market.

The plant gasifies local lignite coal feedstock, at a rate of about 18,000 short tons per day. It has 14 Lurgi gasifiers that produce “about 153 million cubic feet of equivalent natural gas” per day, most of which is distributed by pipeline to the eastern US. In the gasification process, “tar, oils, phenols, ammonia and water byproducts are condensed from the gas stream.” The plant also produces ammonium sulfate fertilizer, using a “flue gas desulfurization system.”

The plant also captures about 8,000 metric tons of CO2 each day, which it pipes 205 miles to Saskatchewan for enhanced oil recovery in the Weyburn and Midale oil fields, in the “largest carbon capture and storage project in the world.”

The Great Plains Synfuels Plant was built in 1984 at a cost of $2.1 billion. Dakota Gas purchased the plant in 1988 from the US DOE, “for 4 percent of its construction cost,” after the original owner defaulted on its $1.5 billion loan guarantee.

The facility began producing ammonia in 1991, as a byproduct of the gasification process, at a rate of around 22,000 mtpy.

The ammonia plant came online in 1997, increasing the site’s ammonia capacity to well over 300,000 mtpy. The Beulah ammonia plant was a used plant, transported from Fort Madison, IA, where it had been built by Sinclair Oil Corporation in 1968. It was operated by Arco (Atlantic Richfield Company, after it merged with Sinclair) until it was sold to First Mississippi Corp in the early 1970s. Before being dismantled and shipped to North Dakota, the plant had lain idle for over 15 years, having been shut down in 1980. [/memberful]

View larger map with all ammonia plants.

ADDRESS: 420 County Road 26, Beulah, ND 58523, United States



  • USGS: Minerals Yearbook, Nitrogen [RECENT / ARCHIVE]
  • EPA Emissions data: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Facilities: BEULAH / GREAT PLAINS GASIFICATION PLANT [LINK]
  • Risk Management Plan: Right to Know Network: Great Plains Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • Air Permit Documents: ND Health: Permit Portal [LINK]
  • Operating Permit (Title V): ND Health: Dakota Gasification Company – Great Plains Synfuels Plant [LINK], 2016 Title V Permit [PDF]
  • Construction Permit (urea plant): ND Health: Dakota Gasification Company – Great Plains Synfuels Plant [PDF]


  • 09/28/2018: Bismarck Tribune: No additional layoffs proposed at Basin Electric, DGC [LINK]
  • 06/17/2018: Grand Forks Herald: Fertilizer plant overcomes early challenges, expands partnerships [LINK]
  • 05/21/2018: OCI press release: OCI N.V. and Dakota Gasification Company Form N-7 Joint Marketing Venture in North America [LINK]
  • 01/01/2018: Bismarck Tribune: State’s first urea plant beginning operations [LINK]
  • 12/31/2017: Basin Electric news: Value of an asset: Why Basin Electric will continue to operate Dakota Gasification Company [LINK]
  • 11/21/2017: Basin Electric news: Urea facility project on track [LINK]
  • 11/08/2017: Jamestown Sun: Despite Trump’s coal moves, Basin Electric still looking at ways to lower carbon emissions [LINK]
  • 02/28/2017: Dakota Gas news: Ammonia production resumes at Great Plains Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • 01/24/2017: Basin Electric news: Dakota Gas ammonia plant work increases efficiency and reliability [LINK]
  • 12/18/2016: Bismarck Tribune: Winter is boss at urea plant project [LINK]
  • 11/07/2016: Jamestown Sun: Fertilizer plant construction in western ND boosting economy [LINK]
  • 10/04/2016: Dakota Gas press release: Ammonia plant work increases efficiency and reliability at the Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • 07/26/2016: Dakota Gas press release: Ceremony marks Dakota Gas urea project milestone [LINK]
  • 07/05/2016: KFYR TV: Storm damages part of $500 million project at Dakota Gasification Company near Beulah [LINK]
  • 02/06/2016: Bismarck Tribune: Construction of $500 million urea fertilizer plant hitting its stride [LINK]
  • 01/15/2016: Dakota Gas press release: Equipment arriving and engineering nearing completion at Dakota Gasification Company’s urea project [LINK]
  • 11/20/2015: Dakota Gas press release: Urea project site sees increased activity as facility starts to take shape [LINK]
  • 09/11/2015: Dakota Gas press release: Large shipment headed to Great Plains Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • 09/04/2015: Dakota Gas press release: Report notes ammonia plant actions to improve reliability at Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • 08/24/2015: AECOM press release: AECOM to provide construction services for Dakota Gasification Company plant [LINK]
  • 08/14/2015: Dakota Gas press release: Major ammonia plant work completed during recent turnaround at Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • 08/07/2015: Basin Electric publication: Urea project construction moves above ground [LINK]
  • 07/17/2015: Basin Electric press release: Urea team meeting has North Dakota flavor [LINK]
  • 06/04/2015: Basin Electric press release: Progress continues on urea project [LINK]
  • 02/06/2015: Dakota Gas press release: Engineering for Dakota Gasification Company’s urea project reaches halfway mark [LINK]
  • 07/25/2014: Basin Electric press release: Teamwork: Keeping urea production project on track [LINK]
  • 04/28/2014: North Dakota Department of Health: Air Quality Permitting [LINK / PDF / PDF]
  • 04/17/2014: Basin Electric press release: Employees travel to Netherlands, Austria as part of urea project [LINK]
  • 01/28/2014: Dakota Gas press release: Dakota Gas approves urea plant near Beulah [LINK]
  • 10/07/2013: Dakota Gas press release: Dakota Gas Evaluates Urea Facility at Synfuels Plant [LINK]
  • UNDATED: Dakota Gas: Great Plains Synfuels Plant, Ammonia Plant [LINK]
  • 09/01/2009: Bloomberg news article: Coal Plant Buries U.S. Taxpayers’ $1.5 Billion Along With CO2 [LINK]

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