Fufeng project unaffected by pipeline setback, Grand Forks executives say – InForum

GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks’ big corn milling project isn’t threatened by a lack of interest in building a gas pipeline spanning the state, several city leaders told the Herald this week.

The assurances come after no proposals were received by the state of North Dakota by a May 1 deadline for the construction of a major pipeline to transport natural gas from western North Dakota to North Dakota. east of the state. Last year, lawmakers made significant funding available for the project, as part of a $150 million pipeline infrastructure package.
In an April 29 letter first reported by The Associated Press, WBI Energy Transmission told North Dakota executives that building a pipeline through the state is not “commercially viable at this time.” , due to “high project cost estimates, increased regulatory uncertainty and limited potential for customer demand in the state. The letter also mentioned the rising cost of building materials.

The setback appears to be jeopardizing the flow of natural gas to the east side of the state, where major projects like the new Grand Forks corn milling plant are expected to rely on the resource. But city leaders point out that a proposal for a smaller project connecting Grand Forks to a nearby Minnesota natural gas pipeline has generated interest and looks likely to go ahead as planned.

City administrator Todd Feland and Local Economic Development Corporation CEO Keith Lund said this means the corn mill project, by China-based Fufeng Group, is not at risk of losing its momentum due to a slowdown in the larger pipeline project.

“Eventually, it will be good for redundancy for them, if they want to consider longer-term expansion. But I think, for the Fufeng project, they have their natural gas option,” Feland said.

This plant, which is now going through the first stages of planning and verification, is expected to create more than 200 jobs in the north of the city. It has been at the center of a major debate in Grand Forks in recent months as the community weighs what developers say is a big economic boost versus a local setback on smells, traffic, costs and even the project’s connections with China.

Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, said the recent lack of interest this week does not mean the end of the state’s hopes of connecting natural gas resources from the west to the east side of the state.

“I think there’s still overwhelming support at all levels for finding some kind of gas solution that benefits both halves of the state,” Kringstad said. “We still have a huge need for gas capacity in western North Dakota. … It’s definitely something that will continue to be explored, looking at what options may still exist and what next steps there might be.

That’s important in Grand Forks, where Feland pointed out that big projects, like the much-discussed (though still unrealized) Northern Plains Nitrogen Fertilizer Plant, would have to rely on significant amounts of natural gas. to work.

“I think this impacts Grand Forks for future and future agribusiness opportunities. … What we need to do is shore up the end users in our area in eastern North Dakota to further justify moving this gas from western North Dakota,” Feland said. “We really need to consolidate our economic development opportunities.”

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