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Recent Energy Development Projects

Since 2005, projects utilizing coal, natural gas, wind, hydro, landfill gas, and process heat have added more than a gigawatt (1169.3 MW) of electricity generation capacity across Montana.

Click the links below or simply scroll down the page to learn more about recent energy developments in Montana.

Montana Generation Projects Since 2005

County Project(s) Additional Capacity
Big Horn Hardin Generating Station 116 MW


Horseshoe Bend

Rainbow Dam Upgrade

Highwood Station

9 MW

+25 MW

42.6 MW

Deer Lodge Dave Gates Generation Station 150 MW
Fallon Diamond Willow 30 MW

Whitefish Hydroelectric

Landfill Gas to Energy

0.2 MW

1.6 MW

Glacier & Toole

Glacier I & II

Rim Rock

210 MW

189 MW

Judith Basin Spion Kop 40 MW
Meagher Gordon Butte Wind 9.6 MW

Culbertson Station

Heat Recovery

91 MW

5.5 MW

Sanders Noxon Dam Upgrade +30 MW
Silver Bow Basin Creek 51.8 MW
Teton Turnbull Hydroelectric 13 MW

Judith Gap

Two Dot Wind

Musselshell Wind

135 MW

2.0 MW

20 MW

Wind Farms

Rim Rock Wind Farm, 189 MW

In October of 2011 NaturEner USA began construction on the 189 MW wind farm near Shelby, MT. Once Rim Rock is in operation, NaturEner will own 70% of the wind generation in the State of Montana, with approximately $800 million invested. NaturEner held its opening ceremony for this the project on September 14, 2012 as the project neared completion. This project will connect to the Montana Alberta Tie Limited (MATL) transmission line which is expected to be complete near the end of 2012. Rim Rock's Commercial Operation Date (COD) is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2013. Glacier and Toole Counties will receive new tax revenue of $2.5 million thanks to the Rim Rock Wind Farm. Landowners involved in with the project will be paid $1.5 million in annual royalty payments. Construction of the project contributed over $40 million to Montana's GDP and operations will contribute $5 million to the state's GDP. The Rim Rock project will supply enough electricity for approximately 60,000 U.S. households per year.

Glacier Wind Farm, 210 MW

NaturEner USA began construction in 2008 on 210 MW of wind power generation plant near Shelby which was built in two phases. The official ground breaking of the first phase was held on July 17, 2008, and it went operational by the end of October. Located in the hills between Cut Bank and Shelby, the first phase has a nameplate capacity of 106.5 MW. Another 103.5 MW was added in phase two and went online in October 2009. Naturener reports that the payments from the Glacier Wind Farm of Montana property and corporate taxes along with landowner’s royalties are $6.8 million per year. The Montana Department of Revenue reports that in 2010 the Glacier Wind Farm located in Toole and Glacier Counties paid $3,708,734 in property taxes. By 2018 the locally granted New and Expanded Industry tax credit that was granted to this project will expire and annual Montana property tax payments will increase to approximately $6,200,000.

Judith Gap Wind Farm, 135 MW

The Judith Gap wind farm owned by Invenergy and located six miles south of Judith Gap in Wheatland County was dedicated on October 7, 2005. The 135 MW wind farm is equipped with 90 GE turbines rated at 1.5 MW capacity each. The Judith Gap Wind Farm has proven to be one GE’s best performing sites in terms of wind capacity factor. Judith Gap has a proposed expansion of 35 turbines for another 52.5 MW, adding nearly 40 percent in power-production capacity. Invenergy reports that the Judith Gap Wind Farm has resulted in over $28 million of Montana tax and landowner royalty payments since the plant began operation in 2005. The Montana Department of Revenue reports that in 2010 the Judith Gap wind farm paid $1,441,874 in property taxes. By 2015, the locally awarded New and Expanded Industry tax credit that was granted to this project will expire and annual Montana property tax payments will increase to approximately $2,300,000.

Diamond Willow Wind Farm, 30 MW

Montana Dakota Utility’s Diamond Willow wind farm near Baker was completed in three phases. Phase one was completed in 2007, phase two resulted in 13 turbines with a total capacity of 19.5 MW. An expansion to the farm, completed in 2010, added an additional 10.5 MW for a total of 30 MW of nameplate capacity. The Montana Department of Revenue reports that in 2010 the Diamond Willow Wind Farm located in Fallon County paid $81,369 in property taxes. By 2017 the locally granted New and Expanded Industry tax credit that was granted to this project will expire and annual Montana property tax payments will increase to approximately $110,000.

Horseshoe Bend Wind Park, 9 MW

This wind farm, located near Great Falls, is owned by Exergy Development Corporation and has a nameplate capacity of 9 megawatts of electricity from six 1.5 MW turbines, enough to power about 2,400 homes a year. The Montana Department of Revenue reports that in 2010 the Horseshoe Bend Wind Farm located in Cascade County paid $211,888 in property taxes. By 2018 the locally awarded New and Expanded Industry tax credit that was granted to this project will expire and annual Montana property tax payments will increase to approximately $350,000.

Montana has an abundant amount of wind energy potential still untapped and ready to develop, if you are interested in learning more about wind energy in the state take a look at our wind brochure here.

Wind Programs

Wind for Schools in Montana and the Wind Application Center at MSU

The US Department of Energy selected Montana as one of five states to participate in the inaugural year of the Wind for Schools Program (WfS) in 2008.The objective of Wind for Schools is to engage rural America in a discussion of wind energy while encouraging the growth of a knowledge and skill base for development of the wind industry. A 1.8 kW wind turbine was erected in the fall of 2008 at MSU to educate students, teachers and community members in wind energy through curriculum development and integration. NorthWestern Energy awarded WfS a grant of $46,000 to begin to implement the Program in the fall of 2008. Starting in mid-May, 2010 the summer interns from the Wind Application Center set out to assemble and setup six Skystream 3.7 wind turbines across the state. This program is part of the same Wind for Schools program that enabled five schools in 2008 to have turbines assembled at their locations in Livingston, Stanford, Cascade, and Fairfield. The 2010 installations are in Lewistown, Townsend, Valier, Glasgow, Wolf Point, and Forsyth.

Wind Integration Study

The study, finalized in September 2008, helped to address issues affecting the ability to integrate more Montana wind into the electricity grid. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development partnered with NorthWestern Energy, Montana Alberta Tie Limited, WAPA and eight Montana wind developers to fund this study. This study is being used as the basis for a follow-on wind variability report released in late 2010 by the same contractor to be used by the wind integration working group that has been convened by NorthWestern Energy over the last two years by the direction of the Montana Public Service Commission.

Montana University System-Sustainable Energy Program

In 2010, the Montana Board of Regents approved sustainable energy programs for the Billings COT, MSU Great Falls College of Technology, MSU Northern, and the Montana Tech of The University of Montana. Each school offers a certificate program and an associate of applied science degree with an initial focus on wind technologies. The program is the result of a collaboration between the four colleges with funding coming from a Community Based Job Training Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Some successes of the program to date include the installation of a 50 kW wind turbine on the MSU-Great Falls campus in 2010 and installation of an innovative vertical-axis turbine on the campus of MSU-Billings.

Wind and Transmission Working Group

The Industry Development Program facilitates a transmission / wind working group that consists of industry and other stakeholders. The group has been meeting quarterly since April 2008 and it convenes to identify obstacles to transmission and wind development and to develop strategies to overcome those obstacles.

Natural Gas and Coal-fired Generation Projects

Mill Creek Generating Station, 150 MW

NorthWestern Energy’s Mill Creek Generating station also known as Dave Gates Generating Station, a $200 million natural gas fired facility capable of producing 150 MW, was completed in 2010. The plant, located west of Anaconda will provide NorthWestern with the ability to respond to changing electric demand and began serving customers on January 1, 2011. It consists of three 50 MW  natural gas fired units-two of which act as primary units and the third serves as an operational spare. The construction of the plant employed up to 265 workers and has created 10 full-time operations and maintenance jobs. The station experience of brief outage in February of 2011, but is currently back on line and completely operational.

Highwood Generating Station, 40 MW

Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative (SMEGT) broke ground on their 45 MW facility outside of Great Falls in October 2010. Phase 1 will be the construction of a 40 MW simple cycle unit along with a 4.6 mile 230 kV transmission to interconnect with NorthWestern Energy’s existing transmission line. The commercial operation date for phase 1 was scheduled to for June 2011. The second phase will be the construction of the second combustion turbine and the combined cycle portion of the Highwood Station, with a commercial operation date tentatively scheduled to be in the fourth quarter of 2013. The Highwood station has been put on hold due to Southern Montana Electric bankruptcy in 2011 which halted their efforts to borrow up to $300 million to complete the second phase of the project.

Centennial Power Plant, 119 MW

This 119 MW pulverized coal power plant went on line in April of 2006. The Hardin Generating Station has the distinction of being the cleanest burning coal plant in Montana and was the first pulverized coal plant to be built in Montana in over 20 years.

Culbertson Peaking Plant, 91 MW

Basin Electric Power Cooperative in November 2007 announced the development of a $100 million natural gas fired peaking plant in Culbertson capable of producing about 91 MW of electricity. The station started generating power to the grid in June of 2010 and interconnects with a 115-kilovolt line operated by the Western Area Power Administration.

Basin Creek Power, 51 MW

The Basin Creek Power natural gas fired power plant in Butte was constructed in 2005 and produces 51+ MW of peaking power, tied to firming wind power from Judith Gap Wind Farm.

Waste Recovery Generation

Ormat /Basin Electric Waste Heat Recovery Project, 5.5 MW

Ormat Technologies constructed a waste heat recovery generation project 10 miles NE of Culbertson, MT. This project recovers heat generated by compressors on the Northern Border Pipeline. Ormat will own and operate the project and Basin Electric has contracted to purchase the output for 25 years. The project is capable of generating 5.5 MW and was completed in 2009.

Flathead Electric Cooperative – Landfill Gas Generation, 1.6 MW

In June 2009, Flathead Electric Cooperative completed construction of a 1.6 Megawatt electric generator that runs using landfill gas. The biomass process will capture and filter landfill gas from the Flathead County Solid Waste District landfill to remove liquid and particulates, then burn it in a 20-cylinder engine. This gas was previously flared, as required by law. The energy facility cost approximately $3.5 million to construct and Flathead Electric expects to recoup this investment within 15 years.

Hydropower Generation Projects

Rainbow Dam Hydropower Project, 62 MW

PPL Montana is undertaking this $230 million project to raise the existing Missouri dam located near Great Falls 1.5 feet and replace eight turbines that currently generate 37 MW with one updated turbine capable of producing 62 MW—a gain of 25 MW. The project was completed in September of 2012.

Gibson Dam Hydropower Project, 15 MW

The Gibson Dam on the Sun River on the Rocky Mountain Front near Augusta was originally built in the 1920’s and it was designed for electricity generating turbines but they were not installed. Toll House of Bellingham Washington is conducting this $25 million project to install the long awaited turbines capable of producing 15 MW of electricity. The developers have been going through the permitting process since 2004 and expect to receive final approval by May of 2011. The project recieved a FERC licensing in January 2012 and is scheduled to begin commercial operations in 2014.

Turnbull Hydro Generation Project, 13 MW

Turnbull Hydro, LLC broke ground on their $10 million hydro electric power plant in July of 2010. The plant will generate 13 MW of electricity from irrigation canals in the Greenfield Irrigation District without affecting farmers’ ability to access the water. This hydro project started generating electricity in 2011 when the irrigation canal begins receiving water and will operate throughout the irrigation season.

Noxon Rapids Dam, 562 MW

Avista, the project owner, recently finished upgrading the Noxon rapids Dam, increasing the capacity by approximately 30 MW. Avista upgraded all four original generating units with new turbines. These upgrades will extend the life and the capacity of the dam, the $45 million project began in July of 2008 and was completed in February of 2012. The power created from the dam is sold to Washington and Idaho.

Electrical Transmission Infrastructure

Facilitating transmission and infrastructure development has been a priority for GOED and IDP. We have coordinated development activities, funding requests to the federal government and advanced proposals to modify transmission rates that would benefit delivery of Montana wind to the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about transmission developments by clicking here or on the image below.

The Montana Transmission for America publication was released at the December 2009 meeting of the Western Governors Association held in San Diego. The publication describes the developing transmission projects in Montana, which will provide approximately 6,000 MW of high voltage transmission capacity. The WGA meeting in San Diego focused on transmission issues facing western states and brought together leaders from the region to identify ways that transmission development can be facilitated and expedited. A highlight of the WGA winter meeting was a sidebar meeting that brought together Montana power generators with southwest utilities if an effort to facilitate power purchase deals. Below is a brief description of developing Montana transmission projects.

Montana Alberta Tie Limited (MATL)

MATL is a 600 MW, 215 mile merchant (private) transmission line connecting Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta. Groundbreaking on the $100 million 230-kilovolt line was held in October 2010 and the line is scheduled to be fully operational by late 2012. MATL will result in the creation of 50 construction jobs, 10 permanent jobs, over a $1 billion in investment in transmission line / wind farms and will bring in $700,000 annually in property taxes. More importantly MATL provides transmission capacity for 600 MW of wind farm development that will bring in over $1 billion in investment to the state along with hundreds of construction job, dozens of permanent jobs, and millions in property taxes and lease payments.

Green Line

Enbridge Energy is evaluating the Green Line Project which is a 230-500 kV transmission line under development to connect Great Falls to Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) transmission system. The line would link the MATL transmission line to BPA’s 500 kV transmission line either at Garrison or Townsend and would provide increased access to west coast markets. The final route for the approximately 100 mile project has not yet been determined but there have been requests for at least 850 MW of capacity on the line and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) have been signed with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to further review and evaluate this project.


TransCanada’s Chinook Project, is a proposed 800 mile high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line proposed to connect Montana through Townsend to Las Vegas, Nevada, with target markets in Las Vegas, Southern California and Phoenix. The project will use 500 kV bi-pole lines to minimize land impact and provide for a total capacity of 3000 MW. As of late 2010 TransCanada has been holding an open season for prospective power generators to reserve capacity on the line. The Chinook Project has been put on hold due to a lack of sufficient commitments from investors for the transmission rights of the line. The open season closed in December of 2010.

Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI)

Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI) is a proposed project from NorthWestern Energy to provide 1,500 MW of new transmission capacity between the Townsend area and the Midpoint substation in Jerome County, Idaho. The company submitted permit applications to the state in July, 2008 for the proposed $1 billion project. MSTI is a 500 kV transmission line that would relieve constraints on higher-voltage systems and provide west coast market access to new Montana power generation projects. The project would be built between substations located near Townsend and Jerome Idaho with an in-service date of 2013. The construction of MSTI is estimated to result in 742 jobs and generate $12-$37 million per year in property tax revenue, dependent on how facilities are classified by the Montana Department of Revenue. In August of 2012 the Idaho BLM requested further study for the draft EIS related to sage grouse in the area of the proposed line. NWE decided to halt all active development in the regulatory status and took an impairment charge of $24 million. If the project is resurected, NWE anticipates that much of the previous work will be relevant in the future. At this point the applications have not been pulled but development work has stopped.

Havre to Rainbow Transmission Upgrade

This Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) project will upgrade the existing 103 mile line from 161 kV to 230 kV and in addition to the construction of an additional 20 miles of new transmission line. This project was permitted in 2008 and has been rebuilt for 30 miles from Havre to Verona, a substation just south of Big Sandy. An additional 14 miles has been rebuilt around the town of Loma. The rest of the line on either side of Loma is original. WAPA does not plan to continue the rebuild on this project until 230 kV is needed.

Wolf Point to Williston Transmission Upgrade

Wolf Point to Williston was permitted in 2006 and and has been rebuilt from Williston to a point west of Culbertson at the Big Muddy creek, about 40 miles, WAPA does not plan to continue on this project  until 230 kV is needed and for the time being the project is completed.

BPA / Colstrip 500 kV Transmission Line Upgrades

NorthWestern Energy commissioned technical studies on a project to increase the capacity of the existing high voltage transmission line from Colstrip to the west coast by up to 900 kV.  The project is being developed by BPA and NWE along with the participation of the other owners of the Colstrip transmission line which include Avista, Pacific Corp., Portland General Electric and Puget Sound Electric. BPA has made the determination that for the portion of this project in its ownership (west of Townsend, MT) that when completed will be operated under embedded transmission rates. The customers of the 500 kV upgrade will be renewable resources mainly wind generation. The upgrade process is continuing to move forward with sites for a new substation being refined and work progressing on the environmental impact statement. The value of the project is dependent on a BPA upgrade, the Central Ferry-Lomo project, which is currently stalled due to delays in wind development projects that would use the project. The release of the final EIS and issue of decision is scheduled for fall of 2014 with energization scheduled for 2017. However, renewable energy developers would like to see the project completed in a more timely fashion.

Grasslands Renewable Energy

This Bozeman based company is associated with Spain based Elecnor and has plans to develop a transmission system that would provide capacity to ship 1,000 MW of firm power generated by an aggregation of 3,000 MW of wind farms dispersed across Montana and surrounding states and provinces. As part of this wind / transmission development plan and as a means of providing “green” firming power, Grasslands is actively developing a 300 MW pumped hydro storage project to be located near Martinsdale. If developed, Grasslands’ projects would result in over 1500 direct jobs and a total economic impact of over $287 million for Montana.

Montana Renewable Collector System

NorthWestern is evaluating a project to construct $200 million worth of transmission lines to collect renewable energy and efficiently deliver it to market. The project would consist of a series of up to five new 230 kV lines that would connect high quality wind areas to a substation south of Townsend. From there the lines would connect to both the existing 500 kV Colstrip Transmission System and the proposed MSTI 500 kV line. NorthWestern has established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to coordinate the planning of this project to determine how it may enhance WAPA’s mission of enabling renewable energy development. This project is dependent upon the completion of the MSTI transmission project which NorthWestern has recently halted all regulatory development.


Enbridge Oil Pipeline Expansion

Enbridge has recently taken steps to alleviate the transportation bottleneck being experienced by Bakken oil producers with two expansion projects. Enbridge’s Phase 5 expansion project is a 30,000 bpd expansion project that was completed in 2007 and increased export capacity for Montana oil fields. The Phase 6 expansion, with an estimated cost of approximately $150 million, has added 40,000 bpd of capacity from the western end of the system to Minot, North Dakota and 51,000 bpd of capacity from Minot to Clearbrook, Minnesota. The line was completed and placed into service on January 1, 2010 and has markedly increased the capacity to ship oil from Northeast Montana to market. These improvements increased total system capacity from 110,000 bpd to 161,000 bpd.

Bison Natural Gas Pipeline

The Bison Pipeline Project is a proposed major transportation link between the natural gas reserves of the Rocky Mountain area, from the Powder River Basin to natural gas markets in the Midwest and the Chicago area. Bison Pipeline LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Border Pipeline Company. TransCanada Northern Border Inc. serves as operator of Bison Pipeline LLC. Construction on the approximately 300 mile pipeline began in July 2010 with gas flowing through the pipeline by early 2011. The 30­ inch pipeline is capable of carrying up to 477 million cubic of feet of gas a day with the capacity to be expanded to 1 billion cubic feet per day.

Keystone XL Pipeline

TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL), announced in the summer of 2008, will transport crude oil 1,980 miles, from Alberta through Montana and on to Nebraska. KXL is a 36” crude oil pipeline and will provide additional capacity of 510,000 barrels per day to the existing Keystone Pipeline, eventually ending in the US Gulf Coast. The pipeline will run 281 miles through Eastern Montana and total investment in Montana will be approximately $1 billion. The state of Montana worked with TransCanada to ensure Montana oil producers would have access to the pipeline through an “on-ramp” to be located in Baker. The increased export capacity provides essential transportation infrastructure for Montana oil producers to get their product to market. Once completed KXL will result in state and local tax revenues of approximately $60 million annually.

Poplar System Expansion

Bridger Pipeline LLC owns and operates the Poplar System, a 10” and 12” pipeline in eastern Montana that carries crude oil from the eastern Williston Basin south to Baker. Current capacity is approximately 42,000 bpd with plans in place to expand this capacity to 60,000-80,000 bpd.

Bioenergy Production

Earl Fisher Biodiesel

This biodiesel plant located in Chester began operations in 2006 and has facilities for both seed crushing and biodiesel manufacturing. Their current facilities are capable of crushing 40,000 gallons of seed oil and producing 250,000 gallons of biodiesel per year. Expansion plans are to expand capacity to produce up to 1 million gallons of biodiesel per year. Current production uses camellia and canola seed for feed stock and the product is marketed locally. In July of 2010, Earl Fisher began supplying biodiesel to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BNSF) at the Havre Depot. The fuel is being tested at the MSU-Northern Bio-Energy Center with one switch train running on a B20 blend (20% biodiesel) and another engine running on regular diesel. Earl Fisher expects to supply BNSF with 24,000 gallons of biodiesel over the one-year study.

Sustainable Oils

Targeted Growth, Inc. (TGI), a renewable energy bioscience company, and Green Earth Fuels, a vertically integrated renewable biodiesel energy company, combined forces to establish a joint venture called Sustainable Oils, Inc. The new venture is capable of producing up to 100 million gallons of camelina-based biodiesel, launching the single largest U.S. contract for the unique biodiesel-specific feedstock. Nearly all of the initial camelina produced for this project is expected to be grown in Montana. In 2009 and 2010, Sustainable Oils supplied the US Air Force with 100,000 gallons of camelina-based jet fuel. In March 2010, Sustainable Oils moved into an expanded facility to meet their growing demand and increase their research capabilities.

MSU-Northern Bio-Energy Center

This biofuels lab was opened in 2008 and is a state of the art facility located on the MSU-Northern campus in Havre. It tests organic fuel and lubricants to certify that they meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. The lab can also test fuel additives to measure their impact on fuel quality and engine performance. Northern will test samples from farmers and post test results on a web site. The lab has continued to expand and now includes a biodiesel pilot plant, allowing the center to create biodiesel on an industrial scale for large-scale testing. In July 2010, the Bio-Energy Center began working with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and local biodiesel producer Earl Fisher Biofuels to test biodiesel in BNSF locomotive engines. The center has been measuring emissions and looking at engine performance in the adverse weather conditions of northern Montana comparing a B20 blend of biodiesel relative to standard diesel over a year, with funding from Montana DEQ's Alternative Energy Development Grant Program. In 2012 the center recently completed the project, demonstrating both the long-term environmental and economic benefits of using biodiesel on the BNSF locomotives and preparing local oilseed producers, refiners, governments and other stakeholders to anticipate and realize the potential of increased biodiesel production in the region. The center also recently re-opened after refurbishment in October of 2012 and now houses oil presses and equipment used to convert oilseeds to fuel, as well as new testing equipment. The refurbishment was paid for with a federal EDA grant.

Algae Aqua-Culture Technology (AACT)

Algae Aquaculture Technologies of Whitefish recently received a $350,000 grant from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to build a commercial algae processing plant that will convert waste wood chips to energy and organic fertilizer. The process uses a greenhouse based algae growth system and an anaerobic biodigester to transform a blend of wood waste and algae into high-value methane for power generation, as well as significant amounts of organic fertilizer. The greenhouse will be built on the grounds of F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. in a joint venture of the two companies.

Montana Advanced Biofuels

Permits have been filed with DEQ for a 126 million gallon per year wheat and barley ethanol plant to be located in Great Falls. The company is currently reviewing technology providers, and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors. In addition, the developers have begun to secure financing including city/county funds, DOE loan guarantee, other federal programs, and private financing. The project passed Phase I for the DOE Guaranteed Loan program and submitted their Phase II application in December 2010. In May of 2011 the company met the Part II criteria for an $400 million DOE loan guarantee and recieved a air quality permit from Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The project is expected to create up to 700 construction jobs and once complete employ about 100 people.

Montana Microbial Products

Montana Microbial Products (MMP) is commercializing a process using barley to produce fuel ethanol and a high-value protein concentrate. The barley protein concentrate (BPC) is a fundamental breakthrough in one of the most difficult issues facing the aquaculture industry – developing a cost effective plant protein to replace fish meal, the primary protein ingredient for farmed fish. MMP worked with Dr. Rick Barrows of the USDA/Agriculture Research Service, “Trout Grains Project” to establish BPC value as a protein ingredient in feeds for farmed trout and salmon. MMP had crucial grant support for the project from the Montana Department of Commerce, Board of Research and Commercialization and from the Montana Department of Agriculture Growth Through Agriculture Program.

University of Montana Western-Dillon

In February of 2007, UM Western completed construction on their $1.4 million biomass boiler that replaced a natural gas boiler on the campus in Dillon. The project consumes approximately 3,800 tons of wood per year and saved UMW $147,000 while reducing CO2 emissions by 50% over a 7 month period in 2007-2008.

Oil Production and Refinery Upgrades

Montana Oil Production

Oil production in the Bakken Formation of eastern Montana has been one of the nation’s hottest oil plays in the last decade. Between 2004 and 2007 Montana’s oil production increased by 42% with a peak production in 2006 of 36.2 million barrels. The world-wide economic downturn that began in late 2008 has caused production to decrease as energy demand diminished. As a result Bakken production has declined to 27.7 million barrels in 2009. Horizontal drilling and well fracturing technology have made possible the extraction of this light sweet crude held tightly in the Bakken shale. And this play could last many years because according to a USGS report released in April, 2008, technically recoverable reserves in the Bakken formation of Montana and North Dakota are estimated to be in a range of 3.4 to 4.3 billion barrels. The development of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline along with a proposed 100,000 barrel per day “on-ramp” near Baker will provide improved market access to Montana oil producers.

Montana Refining Company

The 10,000 barrel per day Montana Refining Co. oil refinery in Great Falls, was purchased by Connacher Oil and Gas of Calgary in 2006 and since then has been upgraded with approximately $100 million in improvements to the boiler fuel system to reduce sulfur emissions, improvements to the wastewater treatment system, efficiency upgrades to reduce production obstacles and plans to increase hydrogen plant capabilities used to strip sulfur out of the heavy crude. The plant currently employees nearly 100 people and has provided jet fuel to Presidential aircraft, Air Force One. In October of 2012 Connacher sold 100% of its subsidiaries, Montana Refining Company and Great Divide Pipeline Company to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. for $120 million, plus an amount for estimated closing date working capital, for a total of $201 million. Calumet manufactures custom lubricants, solvents, and waxes. "Calumet is pleased to add the Montana refinery to our portfolio of niche assets. this acquistion further develops our long term strategy of diversifying our crude slate and geographic presence." said Calumet's Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Grube.

CHS Refinery, Laurel

A $400 million upgrade at the CHS Refinery completed in May 2008 has increased the Laurel refinery's gasoline and diesel fuel production by 20 percent, even though the refinery continues to process the same amount of crude oil of around 60,000 barrels per day. The project has created 35 new full-time jobs with an additional annual payroll of $3.5 million. The company completed a $50 million benzene process upgrade that was completed in the fall of 2010.


According to company officials $90 million has been spent on the refinery since 2005.


The Conoco Phillips refinery has undergone $500 million in improvements since November of 2006 and the company indicates that another $500 million will be spent in the future on improvements. These improvements have received appropriate state permits. In addition, the ConocoPhillips refinery was the first Energy Star certified refinery in the world.

Coal Production, Mines and Transportation

Montana coal production ranks fifth in the United States and hovered under 40 million tons annually for about 15 years beginning in 1988.  Expanded and new mine development will drive production increases in the coming years. Upon completion of the Signal Peak mine (see below) Montana could achieve an estimated 35% increase in production. You can find our Coal brochure here or by clicking the image below.

Otter Creek

The State Land Board voted in March 2010 to approve the leasing of 570 million tons of state-owned coal located in the Otter Creek Valley of southeastern Montana. The lease provides Arch Coal with the right to develop coal located on state owned land which is interspersed among Arch’s leases of privately owned land containing another 730 million tons of coal owned by Great Northern Properties, the largest private owner of coal in the US. Arch provided the state with an $85.8 million “bonus bid” for the rights to develop the mine. Revenues for the state over the lifetime of the mine are estimated at close to $5 billion. On July 26, 2012 Arch Coal officially applied for a strip mining permit to Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop the 7,639 acres of federal and privately owned land in the area. The project will bring an estimated 2,600 construction jobs and 1,740 permanent jobs with an average wage of $78,000 and billions in tax revenue to the state of Montana with a $200 million per year economic boost. The Otter Creek tracts contain an estimated 1.4 billion tons of coal and if permitted could produce 20 million tons per year.

Ambre Energy

This Australia based company has been exploring coal mining and processing opportunities in Montana since 2008. Ambre initially proposed in early 2009 developing a $375 million coal plant in southeastern Montana that would produce high-efficiency coal and synthetic crude oil. Since that time the company has modified its focus and is now concentrating on exporting Montana coal to the Pacific Rim. The company is looking to purchase a former Reynolds Metals aluminum plant located on the Columbia River in Longview Washington, clean it up and in two phases develop a private port to export up to 44 million tons of coal and import other materials. The port project is in the by Cowlitz County Washington permitting process as of December 2012 with the company anticipating. The company is proposing the development of the Port of Morrow, located in eastern Oregon, the facility would allow the export of up to 8.8mm tons of coal per year loading coal onto covered barges for transport down the Columbia river to the Port Westward located near Long View Washington. The Port of Morrow project continues to move forward with the Army Corps of Engineers recently deciding to do an environmental assessment rather than a full-blown environmental impact statement. Ambre recently announced they estimate an in-service date of mid-2014. The Port Westward project has seen pushback from Oregon Governor Kitzhaber and received more resistance. Kinder Morgan plans on exporting up to 15 million tons at this site. 

Spring Creek

The Spring Creek Mine, purchased by Cloud Peak from a Rio Tinto subsidiary, located near Decker in Big Horn County has increased production from 13.1 million tons to 19.1 million tons per year between 2005 and 2011. The company has been aggressively investing in mine expansion including construction of a state-of-the-art 8,000 ton per hour load out, expanded rail loop, replacement of its secondary coal crushers, and doubling the capacity of its conveyor to the new load-out. Cloud Peak has increased overseas exports from the Spring Creek mine which were in excess of 5 million tons in 2011. A recent study performed by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research of the University of Montana showed that if the mine increased production by 20 million tons per year it would be a great benefit to the state economy. It could create as many as 1,421 permanent jobs and add $58.8 million per year in additional income received by Montana households for every year of expanded production. The expansion would also result in $435.5 million in additional gross-sales for Montana-based businesses spread across several industries and $70 million per year in state and local government revenues.


Westmoreland Resources Incorporated (WRI) operates the 15,000-acre Absaloka Mine in Big Horn County. WRI estimates that 77 million of these tons are recoverable and marketable. The Absaloka Mine has produced up to 7.5 million tons of coal annually.

Signal Peak

This expansion of the old Bull Mountain mining operation was announced in July 2008. Signal Peak, located near Roundup, is Montana's only underground mine and is one of the most significant coal reserves in the United States. Over $450 million was invested to develop the mine, including a new coal preparation plant, and the construction of a 35-mile rail spur to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway line near Broadview, the ribbon cutting took place in September of 2009. In August of 2012 Signal Peak Energy made a $3.5 million bid to lease more state coal in the mining area. On September 17th the state Land Board unanimously approved a ten year lease to the rights of nearly 12 million more tons of coal reserves for the price of $3.6 million up front and royalties paid on the mined coal of 10% of its value. The lease is also expected to bring the state's school trust fund $15 million over the remaining life of the mine. The tracts are estimated to contain 35.5 million tons of publicly owned coal. Signal Peak currently employees over 300 workers and has an estimated payroll of $16.7 million. The mine's production has been increasing yearly with 5.14 million tons produced in 2011.

Nelson Creek

Great Northern Properties, the nation’s largest coal owner, owns 400 million tons of potential recoverable reserves of lignite at Nelson Creek. Over the years the company has considered a number of options for developing the site including mine mouth electrical generation plants or coal gasification plants that would produce pipeline quality natural gas. The company continues to explore these options.

Carpenter Creek

This 250 million ton reserve contains high BTU coal (10,200-10,600) located between Musselshell and Melstone. The 70,000 acre area is leased and under active development by Great Northern Carpenter Creek L.P. A significant exploration drilling program is underway to further define the resource, obtain additional coal quality information and gather geo-technical information for furture mine-planning and permitting purposes.

Rail Shipping of Coal

Several major rail projects are under construction or in the permitting process. Construction of the Signal Peak spur was completed in 2009. This 35 mile line connects to the BNSF mainline near Broadview. The Tongue River Railroad (TRR) which will serve as an access point to Otter Creek coal is now federally permitted. Construction of this line will begin with the development of the Otter Creek coal tracts. Another potential line is the Carpenter Creek Spur which will run from Carpenter Creek to the BNSF mainline near Huntley. On June 18, 2012 the Surface Transportation Board issued a decision that required the TRR to revise their application so that it fully reflects the railroads current plans. The revised application was submitted on October 16, 2012 and further evaluation of the project is underway.

Exporting Coal to China

The shortest United States coal transportation route to Asian markets is from Montana. Railway can easily move it directly to several ports on the pacific coast. In addition, new expanded port development is underway along the Columbia River and elsewhere along the Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia coasts. This will greatly expand the export-ability of coal from the interior west of the United States to Asia where demand for high quality coal is growing. Montana possesses a variety of coal types, all with low sulfur content which can be mined at low cost to meet whatever customer specifications are demanded. In fact, the Powder River Basin coal reserve recently surpassed the eastern Appalachian coal reserve in annual production due to the demand for high quality, low sulfur coal; the type Montana possesses in abundent supply.  Learn more about Montana's opportunity to export coal by clicking Here.


Many Stars CTL

The Crow Tribe announced in August 2008 a partnership with the Australian-American Energy Co., a subsidiary of the Australian Energy Co., to build the Many Stars coal-to­liquid fuels plant outside of Crow Agency. The project would produce 50,000 barrels per day of diesel and other fuels. The $7 billion plant would employ up to 4,000 during construction and would create 1,000 permanent jobs. Australian-American Energy Co. works locally out of an office in the Crow Agency staffed by a full time employee and three interns. The office is focused on work force development and community relations, working with Little Big Horn Community College. The company is pursuing a modular approach using technology developed by Accelergy that is based on a 6,000 – 8,000 barrel / day module. The module has an estimated cost of $700 million and represents the smallest economically feasible unit.

CO2 Sequestration

There are currently two active CO2 sequestration projects being conducted in Montana by the US Department of Energy. These projects are studying the injection of CO2 as a means of permanent underground storage and in the use of tertiary oil recovery, also known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

Kevin Dome, BSCSP

The Big Sky Sequestration Carbon Partnership (BSCSP), located in Bozeman at Montana State University (MSU) is one of seven regional partnerships working under the Department of Energy's (DOE) Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (RCSP). DOE has created a network of seven RCSPs to help develop the technology, infrastructure, and regulations to implement large scale CO2 sequestration in different regions and geologic formations within the nation. BSCSP is currently working on a sequestration project located at Kevin Dome, a large underground geologic structure in Toole County in northern Montana. BSCSP hopes to show that the Kevin Dome is a safe and practicable site to store CO2. The project will produce 1 million tons of CO2 from a natural source within the dome that will be extracted and transported approximately 6 miles and re-injected  back deep into the ground. Scientists will closely monitor the geology, geochemistry, water quality and CO2 behavior. The project will total $67 million in federal funds and $18 million from private funds and employ over 100 workers. BSCSP is currently in the "site characterization" phase of the project. This phase includes project permitting, a 3-D seismic survey, environmental monitoring and site analysis, and geologic modeling and analysis. The information collected during this phase will guide well placement and modeling efforts as well as provide valuable information about the source of CO2 and its properties.

Belle Creek, PCOR

The Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership, led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota is a collaboration of over 80 U.S. and Canadian stakeholders that is laying the groundwork for practical and environmentally sound CO2 sequestration projects in the heartland of North America. Denbury Onshore LLC, working with PCOR has begun using a process known as CO2 enhanced oil recovery to increase production in underground oil reserves. It does this by decreasing the viscosity of the oil allowing it to flow more freely through the rock. It is implementing this process in the Belle Creek oil field in southeastern Montana that will add 35 million barrels and 20 years of production to the oil field. A 232-mile-long pipeline will deliver 1 million tons of CO2 a year from the Lost Cabin natural gas-processing facility in central Wyoming to the Belle Creek oil field. The pipeline is scheduled to be completed in December of 2012 and CO2 injection will begin shortly after. Denbury has teamed with PCOR to study CO2 as it is being pumped down into the Belle Creek oil field in hope that they will learn more about the oil field's capability for geologic sequestration storage.


Geothermal power has had a resurgence of popularity over recent years, Montana has more than 50 geothermal sites throughout the state and at least 15 of them are high-temperature, with the capablility to produce clean, renewable, and reliable heat and energy. Montana has the potential to develop significant new sources of geothermal energy that would benefit the state and create jobs. Currently geothermal energy in the state is relatively untapped and unexplored compared to the development of other energy sources in the state, but its' potential is vast to discover more about geothermal energy in Montana click here or on the image below.

Warm Springs, Dewhurst LLC

The Dewhurst Group, headed by Warren T. Dewhurst, specializes in geothermal exploration are developing a geothermal plant at Warm Springs, MT. The site is an A+ location for a geothermal project, with a good temperature and suffecient water that is needed for water injection and water extraction. The State of Montana donated the test site in June of 2012 and engineers have started with the traditional ground survey.