Transload facility is 1st phase of tribal refinery

MAKOTI The first phase of the project to build a clean fuels refinery on the Fort Berthold Reservation is the construction of a transload facility.

The Three Affiliated Tribes broke ground May 8 for the refinery, Thunder Butte Petroleum Services, Inc.

Rich Mayer, chief executive officer of the refinery project and the former CEO of the tribes, said the transload facility will include a truck off-loading station, rail car-loading station, temporary administration office space and also roads, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure.

The other three phases of the project will involve the construction of the refinery itself.

The refinery is being planned for refining up to 20,000 barrels per day of Bakken Formation crude oil into diesel fuel, propane and naphtha products.

The Fort Berthold Reservation sits in the Bakken oil field and currently, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, there are 875 active wells on the reservation producing 150,959 barrels of oil per day, and 170 wells waiting on completion. Nearly 290 permits have been approved for drilling, and 2,477 potential future wells are expected to be drilled.

“We’ll be picking up the main feedstock 20,000 barrels a day that will actually feed the refinery when it goes into operation so we want to get that portion of phase one done,” Mayer said.

He said they want to complete the transload facility by January or February 2014.

The tribes are working with Chemex LLC, a company in Bakersfield, Calif., that specializes in modular refineries, for the construction of modular units.

Tom Rafferty, community relations and communications manager in Verendrye Electric Cooperative’s Minot office, said Verendrye has facilities at the site and has been working with tribal officials to develop plans on how the refinery can be powered.

The refinery site, about two and a half miles west of Makoti in southwest Ward County, is on the south side of N.D. Highway 23, where the tribes own 469 acres of land. Of the 469 acres, 190 acres are for the refinery project. The Canadian Pacific Railway serves the area.

Mayer said the real initiative for the refinery project is to produce cost-effective fuel for tribal members.

The refinery project in the making for more than a decade is conservatively estimated and projected to cost $450 million. The tribal business council has set aside $40 million for the construction of the first phase of the project. Other construction will be financed with Tribal Economic Development bonds, also known as TED bonds.

Both Mayer and Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, tribal business council area representatives and others who spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony last week, said the refinery will have an extensive impact in creating jobs and economic development opportunities for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people, local communities, North Dakota and throughout the U.S.

The tribes plan to have construction at the site under way this summer. The overall project is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.