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Meridian Energy Group applies for conditional-use permit for Davis Refinery

BELFIELD -- California-based Meridian Energy Group Inc. announced Wednesday that it has applied for a conditional-use permit for its proposed Davis Refinery, which would sit on 620 acres of land west of Belfield in Billings County.

BELFIELD -- California-based Meridian Energy Group Inc. announced Wednesday that it has applied for a conditional-use permit for its proposed Davis Refinery, which would sit on 620 acres of land west of Belfield in Billings County.

Though talk has circulated for months about Meridian Energy Group planning to apply for a permit for the plant, company CEO Bill Prentice said the company applied only recently because they had to work to get the engineering totally in place.

At full operation, the refinery would convert roughly 55,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day into refined products. If built, it would be the nation’s second greenfield refinery constructed in the United States since 1976 following the opening of the Dakota Prairie Refinery outside of Dickinson in April.

Prentice said that after being involved with the project with three years, “we got to the point where the market had changed significantly starting a couple of years ago.”

He said this necessitated the company to accelerate its engineering on the project in order to get everything squared away.

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“I don’t like to go in half-baked with this stuff,” he said.

Prentice said the site plans have provisions to accommodate other businesses that would use the refinery’s products, as well as those that would want to take advantage of the railroad.

In the future, he said the facility would use natural gas in its operations, which Prentice called “one of the biggest unaddressed opportunities in North Dakota right now.”

Prentice said he was hesitant to disclose the construction costs of the plant due to what he said was an economic advantage Meridian Energy Group has in constructing facilities relatively cheaper than competitors.

Stacey Swanson, the zoning inspector for Billings County, said she was reviewing the application at the moment to see that it was complete.

Swanson said if no hang-ups were discovered in the application by the monthly submission deadline on March 31, it would proceed to the county zoning board at their regular meeting on April 21.

The application would then go before the Billings County Commissioners on May 3 for final approval, she said.

Prentice said he sees North Dakota as a more business-friendly state compared to his native California, though he said this doesn’t equate to the former being loose in regulations.

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“I’ve gotten the impression that as long as we’re meeting all the requirements of the permitting agencies, that we should have a pretty smooth road,” he said.

Prentice also said that California is just a temporary base for Meridian Energy Group, as it plans to call Belfield its new home in the future.

“This is an emerging North Dakota company,” he said.

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