‘We are going to impact your lives’

'We are going to impact your lives'
Should Hyperion Resources, Inc. choose Union County as the site of its new energy center, the economic and societal impact – both positive and negative – wouldn't be limited to just that county or the Elk Point area.

Vermillion, located only about eight miles from the site of the company's proposed oil refinery, also will be affected.

That's according to Dick White, the man in charge of land acquisition and marketing for the Texas energy company.

"We're going to impact your lives," he told a capacity luncheon crowd at the Buffalo Run Winery in Vermillion Friday, Sept. 21.

The Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company hosted the event for its members.

Hyperion is currently in the first phase of its work after announcing last July that Union County is in the running as a final site for the refinery. It estimates that, if all goes as planned with the permitting process, construction could begin in 2009 and be completed in 2013.

"We are trying to acquire options for the land that we need, and we are doing engineering work," White said. "As we move on down the road, the second phase is going to be construction, and this is going to be an interesting time, because we are going to be bringing up, to work in this area, a peak employment of 8,600 to 9,000 people."

On average, White said, approximately 4,500 people will be employed at the beginning of the construction phase.

"That causes us some problems, and we expect to house those people on property that we will buy and in houses that we will build," he said. "We know there's going to be problems with our workers … good red-blooded American men are going to want a beer sometime (after work) and they are going to go to a tavern and they may over drink and do some things that you wouldn't like them to do."

White told the Vermillion crowd that Hyperion Resources chief executive Albert Huddleston is committed to receiving feedback from all communities that will be affected by the new industry.

"We don't think that there are any dumb ideas out there," White said. "We encourage all of you to stand up and ask tough questions, because we want your input."

Hyperion plans to form a committee to help facilitate the gathering of public opinion. "We're going to make sure that the roads, that the lights, that the jails – that whatever is needed for the period of time that we have this construction – is there," he said. "It's so important that we work together, because this is going to be a fantastic area."

White told his audience that much of the changes that lay ahead would be positive in nature. "We plan to spend $10 billion for this facility," White said. "We're talking about a lot of money coming into this area. And statistics show that everything moves up – the commerce, the industry, and the business that surrounds the area is just fantastic.

"All of those good things happen. Obviously, we want this committee to steer us so we have a minimum of things that are not liked by the community and by us," White said.

Huddleston is committed to building the refinery, which would process 400,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada per day, White said, because he wants North American oil to remain in North America.

A refinery hasn't been built in the United States in 30 years. One is needed, Huddleston believes, in this part of the United States.

"He pointed that if we don't utilize this crude oil, it's going to take a right turn and slip out through the west coast and go to China," White said.

Currently, the U.S. gets most of its oil from Saudi Arabia, White said. "They probably aren't our greatest friend, nor are most of the other countries that supply oil to the United States."

White reassured his audience that the new refinery would meet or exceed environmental standards required by the federal government.

"We promise you that we will have the most technologically-advanced refinery," he said. "It will have no odor." The energy center, White said, will take four years to build and will use the latest technology in oil refining.

"It will be a facility that you won't believe when you see it," he said. "Our chairman has a vision that this facility should be compatible with the people who live around it." The refinery, he said, won't have lights on constantly.

"We will have down-lighting. That means the lights will shine down, they won't shine up. And these lights will be on sensors so that you can make them brighter if you need light in a certain area, or you can turn them down.

"If you have a full moon, you don't need lights at a refinery," White said. "That's something that Albert wants to do, and this will be the first time that somebody has thought about the aesthetics of having a facility like this."

Crude oil contains both lighter products, such as gasoline and other distillates, and heavy products, including petroleum coke, commonly known as petcoke.

The refinery envisioned for Union County, White said, will use modern technology and techniques to turn petcoke and other heavy products into electricity, steam and hydrogen.

"These are all three products that we need in making gasoline and diesel (fuel)," he said. "And we will have the lowest sulfur gasoline and the lowest sulfur diesel fuel than anybody in the United States of America."

Two by-products leftover in this production process will be sulfur and carbon dioxide.

"The sulfur will either be utilized as a sub-section of our energy center, possibly in a fertilizer plant," White said. "We think that such a plant would be fantastic."

The carbon dioxide will not be released into the air. "We have a capability of isolating the CO2 so that it can be picked up and taken to places where it is needed.

"It is needed in mining; it is needed in a lot of different industries," he said.

White said he has visited The University of South Dakota several times and met with President James Abbott, who has indicated support for the project.

"We will be supporting the university," he said. "We will want them to supply people in certain disciplines to work for us."

The four years that it will take to construct the energy center, should it be built in Union County, will give Hyperion time to communicate with USD officials about their future needs.

The energy center's future, ultimately, may be determined by local citizens, and perhaps even a public vote in Union County.

"If the people of this community don't want us here, we will not come," White said. "As I understand it, the (Union County) commissioners will make the decision on whether or not zoning is possible, and there very well may be a referendum if we're successful."

He hopes a public vote does take place.

"I would even recommend to our people that we ask for a referendum, because we want the people here to support this," White said. "This is no good if you people are not interested in this."

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