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Our View: Refinery a symbol of national progress in Dickinson

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On Thursday afternoon, the Dickinson Museum Center sent a photo to The Press showing a 1955 aerial view of what is now the busy area around the intersection of State Avenue and Villard Street.

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Almost 60 years ago, there wasn't much to speak of in the area other than wide-open fields, the Queen City Motel -- a resting spot for travelers along old Highway 10 -- and, of course, the Queen City Oil Refinery that used to operate on the site now occupied by Dickinson Ready Mix.

That refinery, which was open from 1953 to 1956, first produced gasoline in 1954 and shut down less than two years later.

Sixty years after the opening of that refinery, every major North Dakota politician and more than 100 others stood in an open field four miles west of Dickinson to dedicate the future site of the Dakota Prairie Refinery.

The estimated $300 million diesel fuel refinery, the first to be built in the United States since 1976, is expected to be around much longer than three years.

Regardless of your position on oil drilling, the use of fossil fuels or the all-out madness associated with the Bakken oil boom, this refinery is a huge deal not just to Dickinson and the state of North Dakota, but to the entire country.

Not only will the refinery serve as a way to use Bakken and western North Dakota oil as long as it comes out of the ground, it is expected to create between 400 to 500 temporary construction jobs with that number stabilizing at about 100 full-time jobs once the refinery is completed.

The refinery is expected to process 20,000 barrels of oil per day to produce diesel fuel and other hydrocarbons, including natural gas liquids and kerosene.

MDU Resources President and CEO David Goodin told The Press in a conversation Tuesday that only about one-third of a barrel of oil that comes out of the Bakken will go into the production of diesel fuel. The rest gets used in some way, shape or form. Nothing useable goes to waste after it is processed.

Obviously, the production of diesel benefits western North Dakota as the market continues demanding more.

If the Dakota Prairie Refinery works the way it is supposed to, the countless semi trucks that navigate the Bakken will be filling their fuel tanks with a byproduct of the same resource that keeps them trucking all hours of the day and every day of the year.

When the Dakota Prairie Refinery opens in late 2014, it will be the first refinery to open in the U.S. in 38 years. It's also expected to be the most environmentally friendly.

The refinery is expected to produce just 125,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year -- miniscule on a global and even regional scale -- and have fewer worries about odor control thanks to new technologies.

With more North Dakota refineries expected to be constructed within the next few years, the state is at the forefront of lowering America's dependence on foreign oil.

The first step is happening right in our backyard. Be proud of that.

Be proud that the energy industry in your state is taking a proactive approach to keep at least some Bakken oil in North Dakota.

The Dickinson Press editorial board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and News Editor Klark Byrd.

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