Rounds discusses ‘Gorilla’ project

Rounds discusses 'Gorilla' project
Gov. Michael Rounds answered questions Thursday, June 14, regarding the possibility of an oil refinery being constructed in Union County.

Rounds was speaking at the annual Native American Journalism Institute (NAJI) that is held at The University of South Dakota. NAJI includes 21 college students from across the United States.

Rounds said if Hyperion Resources, Inc., an international energy company from Dallas, decides to build near Elk Point, the firm will be responsible for meeting expectations established by the state that address the issue of zoning the area.


"So far, the company, Hyperion, has not asked for a single concession from the state. They haven't asked for any modifications in the licensing or zoning, or anything like that," Rounds said.

The refinery, which reportedly would be the most environmentally friendly energy center in the United States, would be capable of producing 400,000 barrels per day.

Rounds said if Hyperion chooses to build in South Dakota, the state will be working with officials from the company to make sure all requirements are met.

"We'll work with company officials to make sure that the local community comes out not just almost as good as it was before, but equal to or better than when we started," Rounds said.

He said the state will enter a negotiating process that would include discussion about improvements to the infrastructure of the community, which include updating or constructing new roads and bridges.

The proposed site, which would use 12 million gallons of water per day, would take water from the Missouri River. Rounds said there is an adequate supply of water in southeastern South Dakota to support the project because the water that is not released as steam will be transferred back to its source.

"The rest of the water is returned at an equal or higher quality back into the same river from which it comes," Rounds said.

Before Hyperion would be able to access water from the Missouri, Rounds said the company would have to complete a permitting process. He also said the manner in which the company would return the water to the Missouri is environmentally safe.

"We have laws within our state about releases of any kind of pollution, whether it be in the water or soil," Rounds said. "There will be no changes in our guidelines in terms of relaxation of any of our existing environmental rules and regulations."

Rounds said the facility will use integrated gasification combined cycle technology to reduce emissions. He said the refinery will have the technology to capture carbon dioxide and then transfer and sequester it.

"Any refinery that comes in would have to meet all of the clean-air regulations. The goals of Hyperion have been to set an example for the rest of the refining industry that says, 'We think America is ready for a green technology facility, and we're going to be the first ones to do it,' " Rounds said.

He said he does not know whether Hyperion will use the TransCanada Pipeline or another one similar to TransCanada. Rounds said that Canada, America and Mexico are allies, and he said the three countries would be more comfortable purchasing petroleum-based products from one another than from countries in the Middle East.

He also said it would be beneficial for the United States to rely more on national refineries, instead of buying from overseas.

"It is in the interests of our home country if we have more refining opportunities within our own borders, particularly within our borders where they are not susceptible to significant weather activity, such as hurricanes along the coast," Rounds said.

If Hyperion chooses to build in Elk Point, Rounds said there will be 4,800 construction jobs and 1,800 technical jobs after its completion.

"This particular facility will be in a position to produce enough ultra-low sulfur diesel, ultra-low sulfur aviation grade fuel and ultra-low sulfur unleaded fuel to supply all the needs of South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa," Rounds said.

Rounds said he has known about the project for more than a year, and he said Hyperion has been looking into various locations for its refinery for 18 months. Rounds said the project was kept secret because the company did not want competitors coming into the area.

Even though Hyperion has not formally announced its intention to build in South Dakota, Rounds said that it is his understanding that they have acquired the land necessary to move forward with the project.

Rounds said he has been hunting and golfing with Albert Huddleston, the CEO of Hyperion.

"He is low profile. He is very successful. He loves the quality of life we have here," Rounds said.

He said Huddleston believes green energy is the future, and he wants the opportunity to prove that green energy can be both better for the environment and profitable.

"I think he deserves the chance to prove himself right," Rounds said.

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