Hyperion’s ‘Gorilla’ project would be huge

Hyperion's 'Gorilla' project would be huge
Bill Bush, a spokesperson in the communications office of the Washington, DC-based American Petroleum Institute, didn�t hesitate when asked for information regarding the potential size of the oil refinery being proposed by Hyperion Resources, Inc. for Union County north of Elk Point.

He likely had already fielded many questions from curious citizens and members of the media, hungry to glean as much information as possible about the impact such a facility would have on the region.

For example, in the scale of the oil refining business, where does Hyperion�s proposed energy center rank?

Bush referred to a publication entitled Market Facts published by the National Petroleum News.

�The publication breaks down all of the country�s refineries by size,� he said.

At a June 13 press conference in Elk Point, Richard Benda, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development, and Preston Phillips, a Hyperion executive, told local media and interested citizens that Union County was among a small number of finalists being considered as a site of a new energy center that would refine 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

�That�s a pretty good sized refinery,� Bush said.

Refineries in the United States range in size and in the amount of oil they transform to gasoline and other products.

Smaller refineries typically receive about 100,000 barrels of oil daily.

�A refinery that takes in 400,000 barrels or more of oil daily is in the largest category (of refineries) in the United States,� Bush said.

Should Union County get the final nod from Hyperion, both Bush and Cindy Schild, the American Petroleum Institute�s refining issues manager, said citizens won�t see any construction activity for years.

The first steps likely will take place in homeowners� kitchens as land and zoning agreements are discussed. There likely will be further talk in both company and state government offices, in board rooms and in auditoriums and gymnasiums that house meetings involving the public and industry and government officials.

Planning for an oil refinery is, in itself, an intricate business.

�It�s a pretty extensive process, and it takes some time to work through,� Bush said.

�Naturally, the company has to establish the capital to build the plant,� Schild said. But, she added, don�t expect �instant gratification� if you�re in the business of constructing refineries.

�There are environmental permits, zoning permits, creating the infrastructure to provide a source of crude oil and to deliver the finished product ?� Schild said. �All of that has to be completed before construction begins.�

There literally can be a blizzard of paperwork, an endless string of hoops to jump through.

�You must get air permits, water permits, waste permits, and often states have separate rules from federal rules,� she said. �There are a lot of different layers in the permitting process.�

Hyperion�s proposed facility would be the first oil refinery built in the United States since 1976. The company stated that it will be a �green� facility, utilizing modern practices not built into traditional refineries. The newer technology, Hyperion announced June 13, is designed to protect the environment, specifically air and water pollution.

Modern practices, however, come with a higher price tag. Estimated cost of the new refinery is $8 billion.

�One of the challenges of building a new refinery is the cost estimates are a lot

higher,� Schild said. �Also, some new plants face resistance from the community where they are located.

�It takes about three years to expand an existing facility,� she added. �But it can take anywhere from six to 10 years to build new.�

Both Bush and Schild have been watching efforts by Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma, a Phoenix-based company that is attempting to build a refinery in Yuma County, located in the southwest corner of Arizona.

�The effort in Arizona to build a refinery began in 1989,� Bush said. �It�s 2007, and they still haven�t started construction. Getting the approvals on all of the necessary paperwork is an important, lengthy part of the process.�

Schild added that citizens play a crucial role in this stage.

�Throughout the permitting process,� she said, �there must always be opportunities for public comment. The process is technical, it is very complex, and the people must be involved.�

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