The company, which controls reserves in the southwestern region of the state and is developing a new mining complex outside of South Heart, now has until December 2017 to continue its efforts.

It reportedly has already used $6.4 million in state funding, and has been studying potential lignite projects since 2001. Some of its prior proposals have included a synthetic natural gas factory and a lignite-to-liquid fuel facility.

Great Northern Vice President Rich Voss told the Associated Press the company wants to look at all of its lignite utilization options.

Lignite Energy Council President Jason Bohrer added that the nonprofit is urging state legislators to develop a program to fund further research and development to aid in energy development challenges.

“We could become the place that doesn’t just identify new technology. We could be the place (companies) come to demonstrate and prove technology,” he told the AP, adding that commercial trials could help boost investments.

The Lignite Vision 21 Program caps projects at $10 million. He said he is pushing for a program that could be funded for a decade with backing of $250 million to $300 million, ultimately allowing for permanent funding from coal extraction taxes.