Thursday, July 10, 2008

Voters in South Dakota county OK new oil refinery

Voters in Union County, S.D., in the southeast tip of the state, voted last month to create a new zoning district comprising 3,300 acres in the Missouri River bottomlands between Spink and Elk Point for a new oil refinery, reportedly the first to be built in the U.S. in more than 30 years. (Encarta map)

The Hyperion Energy Center includes a $10 billion refinery that would require 4,500 workers and five years to construct. Once completed, it would require more than 1,800 employees to operate, while processing approximately 400,000 barrels of gooey oil from Canadaian tar sands each day. It will also have a hydrogen-producing Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant to generate hydrogen, power and steam, the Hyperion Web site says. The refinery will produce ultra-low-sulfur gasoline and diesel fuel, and "will incorporate green principles in its everyday functions and integrate only the most advanced commercially feasible emission control technologies in its operations."

Voters supported the creation of a Energy Center Planned Development District by 57 percent to 42 percent in a heavy-turnout election, but the debate continues. "Emotions ran high on both sides of the issue," entrepreneur Jack Schultz writes on his BoomtownUSA blog. "On one side were people like Dennis Hultgren, who's lived on the same farm for 78 years and about eight miles from the proposed site. He commented, 'I've got 10 adult grandchildren and not one of them has stayed in South Dakota. I think that this is a great opportunity that will impact the entire area. Not just jobs but an immense grown in other related industries.'" Local resident Doug Maurstad writes in The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, "We in Union County are fighting this refinery every step of the way." Ed Cable led opposition to the proposed refinery and is concerned about the cost of improving roads and meeting the needs of construction workers. Construction for the plant is projected to begin in 2010.

Schultz, a pro-development kind of guy, notes that the county can use more jobs, because 44 percent of its residents drive outside the county to work. Many drive 20 miles to Sioux City, Iowa or 65 miles to Sioux Falls because Union County jobs have declined from 10,290 to 8,416 in the past 10 years. (Read more) However, the Census Bureau's American FactFinder site tells us that folks in Union County, pop. 12,584, drove an average of 17.9 minutes to work in 2000 -- well under the national average of 25.5 minutes. For that and other data on the county, click here.

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