After ash from high-sodium North Dakota lignite plugged the school’s boilers, University of North Dakota officials decided to switch to coal from Montana and Wyoming to heat the campus.
UND was being supplied by Center Coal Co., but Larry Zitzow, UND facilities director, said the school has suspended that contract and will stop taking coal from the company this week.
The lignite plugged up boilers and clogged filter bags intended to sift out pollutants, Zitzow said.
“We’ve worked very diligently with Center Coal to try to make this happen,” Zitzow said of the lignite contract, “but with the present equipment we’re not able to do it. It would cost about $6 million to get equipment for the lignite to burn right. That’s just not in the picture now. It’s a very unfortunate situation.”
Most of the coal mined in North Dakota is lignite, which contains more moisture and ash and emits less heat than subbituminous coal mined in Wyoming and Montana, according to the American Coal Foundation Web site.
Center Coal manager Glenn Baranko said he invested about $680,000 in new equipment and upgrades to handle the UND contract and would have to lay off about four full-time employees because of the lost business.
He said the UND contract was for about 70,000 tons of coal at a base price of $32.25 a ton.
Zitzow said UND has purchased enough coal from Center Coal in seven months to satisfy the one-year contract, and he hopes to negotiate a friendly end to the deal.
Baranko said he was consulting an attorney but did not want to “create bad blood.”
“Maybe things didn’t work out today, but maybe down the road, they’ll be more apt to work with me,” he said.
Zitzow said UND switched to lignite last year to support in-state businesses.
Officials thought the school’s boilers could handle the lignite because of technological advances and because the boilers, which range in age from 29 years to 55 years, burned lignite from another North Dakota mine many years ago, Zitzow said.