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Iron smelting plant announced for Spiritwood Energy Park

The plant would process iron ore concentrate from the Grand Rapids, Minn., area into iron nuggets, according to John Simmons, chairman of Carbontec Energy Corporation of Bismarck.

Sugar beet residue will be used as a reductant or reducer in the iron smelting process, Simmons said in a phone interview Monday. This process separates the iron from the other materials, known as slag, within the ore. Using sugar beet residue reduces carbon emissions.

The iron nuggets would then be shipped to foundries around the nation. The slag might be used in road surfaces within the area.

The iron ore would arrive on railcars that now travel west empty after hauling coal to Minnesota power plants. Rail would also be utilized to ship the processed iron nuggets east to foundries.

“The new Spiritwood site is ideal,” Simmons said. “It has the rail we need, a supply of energy and the sugar beet residue used in the process is nearby.”

Natural gas and electricity would power the plant.

Ova said the JSDC has no agreements yet to sell or lease land to Carbontec but negotiations could begin soon.

The Spiritwood Energy Park is also the planned location of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy Plant and the planned CHS nitrogen plant. The park also includes the Great River Energy Spiritwood Station coal-fired electrical plant that is currently not in use and is adjacent to the Cargill malting plant.

Simmons estimates the design and engineering phase will continue through 2013 with construction in 2014 and production in 2015. Exact groundbreaking dates as well as the total cost of the plant and the number of potential employees were not available.

The plant will operate a single processing line producing 100,000 tons of iron per year during its first year. Planned expansions during the second year would include two additional processing lines bringing total production to 300,000 tons of iron per year.

Carbontec received a grant of $105,000 from the North Dakota Ag Products Utilization Committee matched by a $25,000 cash grant from JSDC in May 2012. The money was used for a feasibility study using sugar beet residue.

“This has taken five years to get to this point in the project,” Simmons said. “We conducted a pilot plant operation in Minneapolis and everything looks good.”

In other business, the JSDC heard a report from Craig Patnode, owner of Eldermark Software, on operations of the Jamestown facility. Eldermark provides computer software and programs to the medical industry. The Jamestown operation currently employs 14 people with a goal of 24 by the end of 2014.

“Electronic health records are driving expansion,” he said. “We have $2.2 million per year in recurring sales and that’s adequate for where we’re at. The goal is a $5 million rate in two years that would support 24 positions in Jamestown.”

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