Plant construction at Dakota Prairie Refining progressing on schedule

Recruiting and hiring process for 80+ employees starting

North Dakota’s entire congressional delegation attended the March 26th groundbreaking where N.D. Governor Jack Dalrymple drove a large piece of earthmoving equipment to symbolically launch plant construction while MDU Resources president and CEO Dave Goodin (left) looks on.

North Dakota’s entire congressional delegation attended the March 26th groundbreaking where N.D. Governor Jack Dalrymple drove a large piece of earthmoving equipment to symbolically launch plant construction while MDU Resources president and CEO Dave Goodin (left) looks on.

Construction of the first greenfield refinery to be built in the U.S. since 1976 is on track and now moving into the initial employee recruiting and hiring phase.  In total, the refinery will require more than 80 full-time personnel, with the largest number of employees to work in operations.

“Our goal will be to hire experienced operators along with new graduates who have an educational background in process plant technology,” says Dave Podratz, Dakota Prairie Refining’s plant manager.  “Approximately 40 operators will staff the refinery along with lab technicians, engineers, and administrative staff.”

In order to develop a qualified workforce, the refinery is developing a training plan with Bismarck State College.  The community college has been designated by the U.S. Department of Energy as a National Power Plant Operations Technology and Education Center and will offer a special refinery operations curriculum featuring computer-based training, facilitated courses, simulated modules, and training materials that have been streamlined to provide an associate level instruction in a reduced timeline.

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“This is a great program that will help us maintain a strong pool of qualified employees now and in the future,” Podratz states.  “We will start recruiting for many of the operations and maintenance positions later this year, with the hope of having some people on board by January 2014.”

Podratz says that interested applicants should monitor a website location that will post all the refinery positions as they become open. “The site—which is jobs.mdu.com—also has an application feature so interested individuals can apply for a job right on the site,” he explains.  The plant is expected to be functional 24 hours per day, with employees working two 12-hour shifts.

Dakota Prairie Refining is a joint project between MDU Resources Group and Calumet Specialty Products Partners. Initial discussions to build a refinery began in December 2011, when the partners realized an opportunity coming from an ample supply of high-quality crude oil combined with an underserved diesel market in North Dakota driven by energy and agriculture sectors.

In the months following the initial discussions, a project team comprised of individuals from both MDU Resources and Calumet labored through a myriad of activities including finding an appropriate location for the plant facility. A site four miles southwest of Dickinson, N.D., was selected due to its economical proximity to critical infrastructure such as rail, natural gas and electric services, water, sewer, transportation and other services.

The partners also worked to complete all the financial and operational reviews, along with the engineering studies and preconstruction work.  While this work was going on, teams were also preparing for the rigorous environmental permitting process.  The application for an air quality permit was submitted to the N.D. Department of Health in mid-October 2012 and was issued in February 2013. During this period, the permit went out for a 30-day public comment period. Region 8 of the Environmental Protection Agency provided review of the draft permit in this time period. Upon meeting all the necessary environmental requirements, MDU Resources and Calumet held a groundbreaking ceremony on March 26th and heavy equipment started groundwork that same day.

Dakota Prairie Refining is located on a 350-acre plot in Stark County, North Dakota, about four miles southwest of Dickinson.

Dakota Prairie Refining is located on a 350-acre plot in Stark County, North Dakota, about four miles southwest of Dickinson.

Plant construction will take approximately 20 months. “Assuming no major problems, the plant is projected to begin operating in late 2014,” Podratz says. The total cost of the plant is estimated to be approximately $300 million.

Dakota Prairie Refining will process 20,000 barrels a day of Bakken crude oil delivered principally to the plant by pipeline. From this input, the plant will produce about one-third distillates, principally diesel (or about 6,000 barrels a day); about one-third naphtha (about 6,000 barrels a day); and about one-third atmospheric bottoms (about 6,000 barrels a day). The plant will also produce a small quantity of natural gas liquids.

Naphtha is used primarily as feedstock for producing high octane gasoline and is also used in the chemical industry for solvents, cleaning products, lighter fluid, fuel for camp stoves, etc.  Atmospheric bottoms are used as feedstock for lubricating oils and can also be processed into a premium heavy fuel oil.  The naphtha and atmospheric bottoms will be shipped by rail to other facilities for use or further processing.

The refinery is what is known as a “topping plant” because it strips out the easily refined components, processes them, and ships the remaining components off to other refineries for complete processing.  A topping plant is an early-stage refinery that refines only certain petroleum components found in the crude oil.  Topping plant facilities are typically smaller than full-scale refineries and are usually located near the primary market for their key product.

Podratz named plant manager at Dakota Prairie Refining

In early June, MDU Resources and Calumet announced the selection of Dave Podratz as refinery manager at the Dakota Prairie Refining facility near Dickinson, N.D. Podratz will lead the organizational development, start-up and commissioning process of the refinery.

Since starting in the refining industry in 1980, Podratz has spent time at a number of facilities in the U.S. and abroad, including at his current post as refinery manager at Calumet’s Superior, Wis., facility. Podratz is a native of Wausau, Wis., and a University of Wisconsin graduate with a degree in chemical engineering.

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