The conference's afternoon program included comments by J.L. Frank of Hyperion Resources, who talked about the need for Hyperion's proposed oil refinery in Union County. He did little more, however, than repeat facts and figures that have already been released by the company.
Reporters hoped to glean more information about the refinery, known by the code name "Gorilla" from Gov. Rounds. But he was unable to add much to what already has been discussed concerning the project.
"There is a need in the United States for more indigenous refining capacity," Frank said. "There has not been a single refinery built in over 30 years in this country. Demand has outstripped refinery output, requiring more imports from abroad, and increasing market volatility."
Frank told a large audience at the Marina Inn that the proposed Hyperion Energy Center would be a world-class refinery, processing 400,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude oil. The refinery would produce ultra-clean low sulfur gasoline and diesel fuel.
"This refinery will be a showpiece not only for the Siouxland area but also for the entire United States," he said. "Admissions from this facility will be at the lowest level of any refinery in the United States. It will be built using the best achievable technology for design and equipment that is available today."
Frank said the refinery would feature an integrated gasification combined cycle unit.
"This plant will take a low value waste product called petroleum coke, and combine it with water and oxygen to produce the needed products for the refining process, including electricity, steam and hydrogen," he said.
Rounds is excited about the new opportunities that Hyperion Resources will offer to the region. The refinery, he said, will do more than provide 1,800 permanent new jobs. It will also offer new efficiencies to agriculture producers in the tri-state area.
"Personally, I support this concept, I support the project. I think the opportunities here, not only for our country, but for our region here, are immense," he said. "We talk about ultra-clean petroleum products. This meets some of the most stringent EPA standards … today, in the United States, we require ultra low (sulfer) diesel because it's good for the environment. But for diesel engines, you improve on their efficiencies when you add bio-diesel to the product."
The tri-state region, Rounds said, is literally in the center of country where bio-diesel can be advanced.
"When you start creating this new ultra-low sulfur diesel product in quantities like we're talking about here, the demand for bio-diesel will go up, and to me, that's an exciting thing," he said. "It's such a natural product to be added to the mix. I see opportunities for farmers in this part of the country to create this new product because it makes economic sense to do so."
The Hyperion project, Rounds said, still must overcome several hurdles. "The guidelines, the rules in South Dakota are there for a reason," he said, but Hyperion officials have noted that they are aware of the state's requirements for zoning and permits, and are not asking for any special favors.
"From a company that is stepping in and requesting that they want to make an investment in our part of the country, the burden is on them," Rounds said. "They have an obligation to work through the zoning and to meet or exceed permitting standards. They are walking in with their eyes wide open … from my perspective, I like that approach."