BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's Crow Tribe is pursuing a scaled-down proposal to build a plant converting coal and natural gas to liquid fuels after an earlier project stalled because of its high price tag, tribal leaders said Thursday.
The tribe has been in discussions with potential financial partners but has not yet signed an agreement, Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote said.
In 2008, the Crow announced ambitious plans for a 50,000-barrels-a-day plant that would convert coal to diesel and other liquid fuels. The project was pursued in collaboration with an Australian company but never went anywhere after its price tag grew to an estimated $8 billion.
Yet over the past several years, Old Coyote said the tribe continued working with Houston-based Accelergy Corp. to refine the technologies that could be used to build a fuel-conversion plant. "We're working to take the technology and turn it into reality," Old Coyote said.
The proposal entails building a plant that would use natural gas initially and could later be switched to coal if gas prices rose. Although details have not yet been finalized, tribal officials said the price tag would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Officials also said the plant would also produce far less fuel than the 50,000 barrels a day envisioned for the 2008 proposal.
The timetable for construction is uncertain, and even with the changes the plant is likely to present challenges.
Only five gas-to-liquid fuel plants are operating worldwide — two each in Malaysia and Qatar and one in South Africa, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Only three gas-to-liquid fuel plants have been proposed elsewhere in the U.S.
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