By: ANDREW WHITE, Senior Editor
Meridian Energy Group Inc. continues to make progress on its new Davis Refinery in North Dakota, which, when complete, will be one of the most modern, efficient and environmentally compliant refineries that has come along in more than 50 years. According to Meridian Energy Group Chairman and CEO William Prentice, the pacing item in development and financing of its Davis Refinery for the past year has been the receipt of the air quality Permit to Construct (PTC) from the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH).
“All other items are substantially complete and ‘in a holding pattern’ awaiting the award of the PTC,” Prentice said. “We cannot begin construction of the Davis Refinery until the PTC is in hand, so we are fine-tuning designs, getting ready to purchase long-lead-time equipment, and finalizing marketing and crude agreements. Once the draft PTC has been issued by the NDDoH for public review, we will make sure that everything is buttoned up and ready to go as soon as the final PTC is issued. Hopefully, that will happen in the late September/early October timeframe, so we can get into the ground before winter weather makes that more difficult.”
In terms of the overall long-term schedule, Meridian will begin by building the 27,500-bpd hydro-skimming facility called Davis Light. That will produce gasoline, ultra-low sulfur diesel and No. 6 fuel oil. Davis Light will go into operation 12-15 months following the receipt of the final PTC.
“Once we have Davis Light in operation, we will finalize our plans for expanding the Davis Refinery to a full 55,000-bpd capacity, which will include equipment to turn the fuel oil into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel,” Prentice said. “We call this expanded refinery ‘Davis Full.’”
Before Meridian can begin construction on the expansion, it will require a siting certificate from the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC). Meridian will apply for that permit from the PSC once it makes the final decision on proceeding with the Davis Full expansion.
Recent development challenges
According to Prentice, the Davis Refinery will be the cleanest and most technologically advanced refinery on the planet, and it will be the first full-conversion refinery built in 40 years.
“The refining industry is operating at very high use rates using aging assets that are poorly designed and positioned to meet the needs of our economy, and it is poised for a major restructuring,” he said. “In taking the lead in that restructuring, Meridian has had to overcome public perceptions of what a refinery is at every stage of development, permitting and financing.”
The issue of public perception has been most evident during permitting for the Davis Refinery — a process that Meridian has been engaged in for over two years. By applying the latest technology throughout the design of the Davis Refinery in a comprehensive manner, which includes emissions controls, Meridian has been able to design a smaller, sleeker, more efficient and very clean refinery — one that will set new standards for the industry with the Lowest Achievable Emission Rates or “LAER”.
“However, when people hear of a refinery being built in Belfield, North Dakota, they think of an old-fashioned refinery built in the 1940s or 1950s with decades of ‘band-aids’ welded onto it, and they become alarmed,” Prentice said. “It has taken a long time and a massive investment in engineering to demonstrate the value of what we are going to accomplish, and to show what the Davis Refinery will look like and how it will perform. Some people are not even willing to take a look at what we have done, and will not be convinced until they see it built and in operation.
“The Meridian team is very proud of what it is accomplishing with the Davis Refinery, particularly in the area of environmental performance. Meridian is confident that North Dakota will be proud of the plant, too.”
Setting new standards
According to Prentice, the design for the Davis Refinery incorporates all the latest process technologies, which are more efficient than those of 40 years ago, along with all of the advances in best-available control technology and lowest achievable emission rates.
“When you include the advances in construction methods and operations, instrumentation and controls, you end up with the cleanest refinery on the planet also becoming the first fully digital refinery in the world,” he stated. “There will be no clearer indication of the level of efficiency Meridian will achieve with respect to air quality than the full Davis Refinery being permitted as a synthetic minor source. This is the first time in history a firm has been able to engineer a full-conversion refinery to that level of emissions control, and represents a sea change in the industry.”
Contractor, community involvement
Meridian has been looking for innovative, long-term strategic partners for its Davis Refinery. Now that the permitting process is nearing completion, the company will be finalizing some of the contracts for design, equipment supply and construction of the facility, and it will be making some public announcements in these areas. According to Prentice, the Davis Refinery will employ up to 200 people.
This summer, Meridian had the pleasure of being a part of fundraising events for the CHI St. Alexius Hospital in Dickinson, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, Make-A-Wish® North Dakota, Best Friends Mentoring Program, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Veterans Outdoors Adventures North Dakota and Real American Heroes of North Dakota.
“We will also be conducting several more public Q&A forums, along with Davis site visits to properly inform the public and local media of the benefits of the project,” Prentice concluded.
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