Opportunity Epitomized

By The Bakken magazine staff | May 24, 2013

Northern Plains Nitrogen, a startup fertilizer production company, epitomizes why challenges in the Bakken are often opportunities in disguise. The company, created by farmers in the Northern Plains region with a little help from North Dakota State University, has announced it will build a nitrogen fertilizer production plant using natural gas sourced from western North Dakota as the main feedstock for its fertilizer. The facility, which could come online in 2017, will be built northwest of Grand Forks, N.D., near an existing wastewater treatment facility. In total, the plant will cost roughly $1.5 billion. 

Gov. Jack Dalrymple called the plans an exciting opportunity for the city, the state and the company, noting that the increasing supplies of natural gas can provide the plant with feedstock and help regional farmers reduce their consumption of product typically sourced from places such as Eygpt, China or Saudi Arabia. Don Pottinger, NPN CEO, said the facility will be “among the safest, most efficient and environmentally compliant ever constructed.”

The company is currently working on the engineering, design and infrastructure need assessment of the facility. If completed, the plant would have a 2,200 ton-per-day nitrogen fertilizer production capacity, or roughly 600,000 tons of nitrogen per year. At the peak of construction, the plant could employ more than 2,000, and during operations, NPN believes the plant would employ 135 full-time workers.

North Dakota currently ranks as the No. 12 producer of ammonia fertilizer in the U.S. at 400,000 tons per year. According to a study conducted by NPN and NDSU on the feasibility of using natural gas sourced from western N.D. to produce fertilizer, the cost of natural gas accounts for roughly 50 percent of the production costs.