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Oil refinery project proposed for Baker: More facilities possible for Minot, East Fairview

BAKER, Mont. — An oil and gas exploration company is in the early stages of planning a diesel refinery in Baker that would create about 100 jobs.

The facility, which would be run by Quantum Energy, Inc., would refine 20,000 barrels of oil to produce 7,000 barrels of diesel a day. It would supply fuel to other energy companies and agricultural producers within a 100-mile radius, cutting back on diesel transported from out of state to meet oilfield-related demand.

Quantum Energy representative George Bailey said that the company is also considering opening new refineries in Minot and East Fairview.

Mona Madler, director of the Southwest Montana Area Revitalization Team, said the refinery would essentially mimic the Dakota Prairie Refinery being constructed in Dickinson in its aims to decrease diesel costs in the Bakken region.

Representatives from Quantum Energy Inc., visited Baker earlier this month, meeting with city and county officials, and looking at potential refinery sites.

The company also gauged public opinions at an open meeting, which attracted about 30 people, Madler said.

Quantum Energy CEO Andrew Kacic, who visited Baker, said he plans to build five such oil refineries, called “21st century energy centers” by the company.

Quantum announced plans for the first such center in April, when it secured 122 acres to build a Bakken crude oil refinery in Fairview, Mont., more than 40 miles west of Watford City. The facility is projected to generate $60 million annually, and employ more than 100 full-time workers, according to a Quantum announcement.

The company is in the process of getting permits for that refinery, according to its website.

Refineries will use enhanced oil recovery methods to increase diesel production with carbon dioxide, Kacic said. Some propane byproduct will also be stripped from the crude oil to decrease the diesel’s volatility when being transported by rail.

Baker City Councilman Brandon Schmidt said Quantum’s presentation on June 4 still leaves questions unanswered.

“It wasn’t anything solid,” Schmidt said. “It was more basically just a heads up that this might be going on.”

Fallon County Commissioner Deb Ranum said she doubted the success of the proposal. She said the county commission would need to meet many more times to hash out utilities issues.

“Our problem here is water,” Ranum said. “We wouldn’t even have enough wastewater to operate an oil refinery.”

Madler countered that she is confident that Fallon County officials can find a way to provide the water through wastewater sources, similar to Dickinson’s refinery.

A certain amount of water is required by law at refineries for fire prevention and emergencies.

At a meeting on June 5 with Baker residents, Madler said residents raised questions about where new refinery workers would live, as well as its environmental impacts.

But, she said that Quantum’s proposal was well received overall, as Fallon County is one of Montana’s largest oil and gas producers. Residents are accustomed to development, Madler said.

“This is kind of what we do,” she said.