North Dakota greenfields: water or money (pick one)

The last few months have seen progress on the two big North Dakota greenfields: Northern Plains Nitrogen in Grand Forks, ND and CHS in Spiritwood, ND.

One has water, the other has money.

Within the next few months, they each might have both – or not.

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NPN’s final permit to construct should be approved within the next few weeks, assuming feedback during the public comment period is bland enough to avoid a public hearing. Once NPN is over that hurdle, all their permits will be in place – their water permits were approved back in 2014.

Next, I’ll be waiting for NPN to announce some financing agreements – they’ve dropped hints in the press about investors waiting for the “de-risking” air permit. More details are in my Research Note.

CHS’s permits, on the other hand, are all at sea – or perhaps more aptly, up a paddle without a creek.

There isn’t enough water at Jamestown. If all else fails, they’ll just build a pipeline from Bismarck, ND, and tap into the Missouri, but that might prove very expensive. I’m guessing that they expect to have solved the water issue by the end of 2015 but, if it’s still unsolved, the whole project might be shelved.

While it doesn’t directly solve their water problem, CHS has a bit of a wild card up its sleeve: a $1 billion loan guarantee application, currently in some unknown status at the US DOE (neither the DOE nor CHS will comment). What I do know is that the DOE recently changed the scope of the solicitation by adding the word “chemical” so that CHS’s project unambiguously fits the definition: “A project that uses advanced fossil energy technology is a project: (a) that uses fossil energy to produce electricity, fuels or chemicals …” I don’t believe the DOE would have made that change without reason, and trust that Sen. Hoeven’s lobbying efforts are paying off. The timeframe for awarding loan guarantees is very opaque. The last deadline for submitting full applications is in early 2016, but CHS may already have done all that and be waiting for a decision from DOE.

Hopefully, CHS will have answers about both the water supply and the loan guarantee in time for the Spiritwood plant to proceed but, at this moment, the project seems to be losing its luster. More details in my Research Note.[/memberful]


    • Trevor Brown says:

      Thanks Tom,

      I believe you’ve been following this industry for about 30 years, so you should have a good sense of how things play out. Time will tell.


    • Trevor Brown says:

      Alright Tom,

      Within a week, you’re half proven right. How long before we know whether you’re right about NPN as well?


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