Refining the final touches: Dakota Prairie Refinery on track to open later this year

After almost three years since development, design and construction began, the Dakota Prairie Refinery southwest of Dickinson is about 80 percent complete, project leaders told state legislators Wednesday.

Press Photo by Nadya Faulx District 37 Republican Rep. Vicky Steiner takes a photo Wednesday during a tour of the under-construction Dakota Prairie Refinery. More than 30 state legislators participated on the two-day tour of western North Dakota this week, visiting sites in Dickinson and Watford City.

After almost three years since development, design and construction began, the Dakota Prairie Refinery southwest of Dickinson is about 80 percent complete, project leaders told state legislators Wednesday.
The facility, the first greenfield refinery built in the country since 1976, is on track to open and be operational by the end of this year after Gov. Jack Dalrymple and other state leaders broke ground on the site in March 2013.
More than 30 legislators from across the state visited the refinery, some for the first time, as part of a two-day tour of western North Dakota organized by the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
“It’s an important day for us here to show off what we’re doing here,” said Timothy Rasmussen, public relations manager for MDU Resources.
With an estimated 20 percent of work still to finish - “the hardest,” said project manager Jeff Rust - the $350 million refinery is on schedule to begin processing roughly 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day later this year. It will produce about 300 barrels of natural gas and 7,000 to 8,000 barrels of diesel per day, much of which will be sent to local wholesalers and sold in the community.
“We’ve run short on diesel fuel for the energy sector and agriculture sector,” said state Sen. Rich Wardner of Dickinson, a Republican who represents District 37.
He and fellow District 37 Rep. Vicky Steiner, R-Dickinson, touted the Dakota Prairie Refinery as a positive addition to the region.
“They’re definitely a stable employment base for our community,” Steiner said.
It was Wardner’s second trip to the site since construction began last year; he said he visited two months ago with Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser.
“You almost go, ‘Are we in Dickinson?’” Wardner said. “They’ve really made progress in the last two months.”
The 300-acre site employs around 600 craftsmen. Once operations start, the refinery will employ about 90 people, 67 of whom have already been hired. Unlike the more transient oil workforce, Wardner said he expects the refinery will bring people who are looking to settle in the Dickinson area.
“It’s going to bring some people here that are going to be high-quality citizens,” he said. “We want people to come here, live here and put down roots.”
Following a visit to Marathon Oil in Dickinson on Tuesday and a tour of some crew camps and hydraulic fracturing sites in Watford City, the group concluded their tour Wednesday in Dickinson with stops at both the refinery site and the Bakken Oil Express terminal nearby. The tour, held every two years, brought Republican and Democrat legislators together to see firsthand the effects of the oil boom, and how oil-producing counties are dealing with the growth.
“They get a lot of reports on paper,” Steiner said, but the tour was an opportunity for many to see the activity for themselves.
“They also see improvements with state dollars - that we are able to handle this growth if we have state support.”
Steiner said the information legislators received on the tour would be helpful in the upcoming legislative session.
“They’ll have memories of what they learned and what they saw firsthand,” she said. “It will give them more confidence that when you give them pieces of paper, that the pieces of paper are what’s happening on the ground.”

Faulx is a reporter with The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207 or tweet her at NadyaFaulx.

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