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Thunder Butte refinery Phase I (photo: Pete Hale)

Work continues on Thunder Butte Refinery

by Mary Schimke | Shale Plays Media

Construction on the new Thunder Butte Clean Fuels Refinery is in full swing. Located southwest of Minot near the small town of Makoti, N.D., on the Fort Berthold reservation, the refinery has been a long time in the making. Workers broke ground May 9, 2013, grading the landscape and preparing for construction. Since then, the facility has begun to take shape. The estimated $450 million project is heading towards the end of phase one, construction of the transload facility, with an estimated September completion. Portions of the refinery are in construction off-site in Houston, Texas, and will be shipped and assembled on site.

Richard Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of the Thunder Butte facility, talks about the “big picture” of the refinery. In addition to producing diesel and gasoline, the MHA Nation envisions a whole distribution system that includes convenience stores and gas stations. The plan includes a flagship truck stop on the eastern side of the refinery. If all goes well, they will expand service to other locations across the state.

The diesel produced at Thunder Butte will be used locally as Mayer identified the high demand for fuel for trucks and service vehicles. As for gasoline, any surplus will be marketed to other areas, tribes in particular, who have the need for it.

Using oil and natural gas locally will allow the MHA Nation to work towards energy independence instead of relying on outside resources for vehicle fuel and even heating homes. Tex Hall, MHA Tribal Chairman, told Native Sun News, “This is just another huge step for our tribes and for any tribe as it reaches for energy independence and economic sovereignty.”

Potential corporate partnerships include Enbridge, Inc. who may provide feedstock to the refinery as well as Cenex, Tidal Marketing, and Aux Sable who may be interested in purchasing refined products. Canadian Pacific Railway was also identified as a corporate partner in development of spur lines to the refinery used for loading and unloading products.

The refinery is one of the first to be built in the U.S. since 1976. Dakota Prairie Refining, located in Stark County near Dickinson, is on track to open just before Thunder Butte. Mayer said that obtaining the permits from the EPA for Thunder Butte was a much more difficult and lengthy process than it was for the Dakota Prairie facility because they had to appeal for a permit through the federal agency rather than dealing with the EPA on a state level. Thunder Butte first applied for a permit to build the refinery 12 years ago, back in 2002, with intentions of using Canadian tar sands oil as feedstock. Now, the refinery will process local Bakken crude instead with a capacity of 20,000 barrels per day. With production still going strong in the Bakken/Three Forks formation, it only makes sense to use local supply instead of importing feedstock for processing from other places, saving costs on all sides.

Thunder Butte Refinery is now taking bids for upcoming projects. Bids for the following projects are now open: Rough Grading #2 for fail track, mobile loading carts, lact skids, rail construction, aggregate supply site building office, shop, and apartments. Contact Pete Hale, Operations Manager, at 710-862-2560 with questions on bids, or Corval Group in Beulah, 701-301-7102. TERO rules apply.

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