Coal Creek Station

Coal Creek Station is the largest power station in North Dakota. This plant’s construction began in 1974, and the first Unit was completed and operational in 1979. The second unit began operating in 1980. As this electric plant was being built, it generated controversy for its anticipated environmental impact. Indeed, today we see this plant is the nation’s third largest producer of coal ash. The plant generates more than four million pounds of the waste yearly, storing it onsite.

The plant employs over 200, which makes it one of the largest employers in McLean County. Coal Creek actually burns about 22,000 tons of ignite coal a day, which amounts to approximately eight million tons per year. The boiler building is 68 meters high, while the two chimneys that house the steam-generated power are 205 feet tall.

The way this plant produces electricity is through burning coal, which heats water until it turns to steam, moving through tubes in the tall furnaces that super heat the steam to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is this high-pressured steam that drives the turbines, while the low pressure steam is captured and recycled back into the process. This excess steam and water recycling is a recent renovation of the old coal burning furnaces and is actually a sophisticated method of reusing what would have to be disposed of, adding to the plant’s energy efficiency.

Despite the quantity of waste produced, the plant’s environmental approach to electric power has earned Coal Creek several national awards. They have also added controls and monitoring systems to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollutants leaking into the air. Coal Creek Station was one of the first power plants to be register with the Occupational Health and Safety Management System, which monitors safety procedures.

However, even with the plant’s recent emphasis on clean design and operation, its age alone might make it a hazard to former and current employees. Older plants constructed in the 1970s and before often used a material called asbestos. This material could be found in numerous locations in the plants, including as an insulator around boilers and pipes that hold hot fluids, electrical wiring and even in the tiles and walls. Unfortunately, despite its value as an insulator, the material poses a serious and long term health risk to those exposed, as it can lead to respiratory issues or a cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma often does not appear for up to five decades after initial exposure, carrying an extremely poor prognosis once it does manifest.


Great River Energy