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U.S. tribal refinery dream moves closer to reality
July 5 |
July 5 (Reuters) - Back in 1997, a group of native American workers stranded by a blizzard on an oil installation came up with the idea of building a refinery on their North Dakota tribal lands to counter the high unemployment on their reservation. Fast forward to 2012 and the refinery, now named Thunder Butte, has received the final approval needed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make the dream of the Three Affiliated Tribes come true, according to a tribal spokeswoman.
The original plan by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations was for a 15,000 barrel per day refinery to run synthetic crude oil from Canada.
But in the 15 years since the idea was first floated, oil production in North Dakota has made a dramatic about face.
Now, the new clean fuel refinery to be built on the Fort Berthold Reservation will refine homegrown Bakken oil.
Crude production from the Bakken shale oil formation which underlies the region has been growing by leaps and bounds, vaulting North Dakota over Alaska and California and up the ranks of oil producing states to just behind Texas, the nation's largest producer.
State crude oil production in April 2012 was 609,000 barrels per day, an 85 percent increase from the 94,000 bpd pumped in April 1997.
The Thunder Butte refinery, the first plant to be built in the lower 48 states since Marathon built its Garyville, Louisiana refinery in 1977 will be able to process light, sweet Bakken crude into diesel, gasoline and propane.
At a capacity of 13,000 bpd, however, it is less than a quarter the size of the state's other refinery - Tesoro Corp's 60,000 bpd Mandan refinery and dwarfed by other Gulf Coast and Midwestern plants, some of which are over 300,000 bpd.
The Corval Group, a St. Paul-based company, was chosen to develop the business plan for the plant while a native American group in Alaska, Arctic Slope Regional Corp, will be involved in the engineering and operation of the plant.
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