Using Coal

How coal is used:

Antelope Valley Station
North Dakota Air Quality: North Dakota is one of only seven states to meet all air quality standards set by the federal (United States) government (as of 2013). North Dakota's "coal country" consistently receives a grade "A" in air quality from the American Lung Association. Photo of Antelope Valley Station near Beulah is courtesy of Basin Electric Power Cooperative.


  • Fly ash trapped by the baghouse is recycled and used for many purposes, including building roads and concrete for homes and buildings. In North Dakota, fly ash was used in the building of the Fort Mandan Visitors Center in Washburn and the National Energy Center of Excellence at Bismarck State College.


Coal Creek Station
North Dakota's Largest Power Plant: Coal Creek Station, the largest power plant in North Dakota, produces about 1,141 megawatts of power. One megawatt hour can provide one hour of electricity to approximately 800 homes. Photo courtesy of Great River Energy.
  • The exhaust seen coming out of the stack at a coal-based power plant is almost all water vapor. This is why people don't see much coming from the stack in the summer, but a large cloud is seen in the winter. Just above the stack is clear until the water cools enough to condense.


Map of Coal Country
Map of Coal Country: This map shows the location of North Dakota's lignite mines and coal-based power plants. Photo courtesy of Lignite Energy Council.
  • The following power plants generate electricity from North Dakota or Montana lignite coal:
    • Coal Creek Station – near Underwood
    • Antelope Valley Station – near Beulah
    • Coyote Station – near Beulah
    • Leland Olds Station – near Stanton
    • Milton R. Young Station – near Center
    • R.M. Heskett Station – near Mandan
    • Lewis & Clark Station – near Sidney, Montana
    • Spiritwood Station – a combined heat and power plant near Spiritwood 


  • A combined heat and power plant means that the steam created at Spiritwood Station to create electricity will also be used to provide steam at a nearby malting plant and ethanol plant. This process saves money for all of the plants by getting the most use possible out of the steam.


U.S. Power Lines
US Power Lines: This map shows high voltage transmission lines throughout the United States – 115 kilovolts and up. The smaller distribution lines (wires that carry electricity to homes) are not shown on this map. Map courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Almost all of the people in North Dakota, as well as 1.5 million people in surrounding states use electricity produced from North Dakota lignite.
    • Lignite is turned into electricity in power plants and transmitted to users throughout the region.
      • Power lines carry electricity to all parts of North Dakota, as well as to surrounding states.
      • North Dakota has more than 65,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines. Transmission lines are high-voltage lines that carry electricity long distances. Distribution lines carry lower-voltage electricity from a local substation to nearby homes.


Energy Campus
Energy Campus: In order to save money on transportation costs, North Dakota's power plants are located near the mines. This picture shows the Antelope Valley Station, the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, and the Freedom Mine near Beulah. Both plants use coal from the Freedom Mine to cut down on transportation costs. Photo courtesy of Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
Lignite Coal: Learn more about lignite coal and its benefits to North Dakota. Video courtesy of Lignite Energy Council.
  • About 20 percent of North Dakota's lignite is used to make synthetic natural gas and fertilizer products through coal gasification. Synthetic means something that is made by people, not by nature. Gasification (gas-ah-fah-KAY-shun) is the process of changing something into the form of gas. In North Dakota, synthetic natural gas is made from lignite coal.
    • The Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah is the only coal gasification plant in the United States that makes synthetic natural gas from lignite coal.
      • About 18,000 tons of lignite coal are used each day to create synthetic natural gas.
        • This coal comes from the Freedom Mine.
      • The Northern Border Pipeline transports the synthetic natural gas to the eastern part of the United States.