The city of Belfield recently hosted a public forum for people to ask questions regarding the Davis Refinery, the first greenfield refinery to be built in the U.S. in over 40 years. The event was designed for people to engage with executives of the company building the Davis Refinery.
Meridian Energy Group, Inc., a leading developer of innovative solutions for environmentally-compliant oil refining technology, is currently waiting for the Air Quality Permit to Construct approval from The North Dakota Department of Health.
The Section Chief of the NDDH, Environmental Health Division, David Glatt, had this to say recently on the Meridian permit. “The State of North Dakota is committed to the health and economic welfare of its citizens. The North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Health Section is charged with making sure that projects such as Meridian Energy Group’s Davis Refinery project meet stringent federal and state air quality emissions requirements. The proposed Davis Refinery air quality application is a top priority and the Department will work with Meridian through the application review process to ensure that the Davis Refinery meets federal and state air quality requirements.”
Meridian is also awaiting the water allocation permit from the North Dakota Water appropriation board, which most believe will pass sometime early this summer.
Dan Hedrington was one of the professionals who answered questions along-side Meridian Executives. Hedrington is principal and senior project manager for SEH, a company of engineering, architecture, environmental and planning consultants serving the public and private sector.
“I attended it and to be honest it was a lot of fun,” Hedrington said. “We were very pleased with the number of attendees that came to the event.”
According to Hedrington, it was hosted by the city of Belfield and held at the Belfield Theatre and Performance Center.
“Meridian wanted to make sure Belfield citizens, as well as the surrounding communities were invited to be as informed as they could be,” Hedrington said. “It was a great venue for the location. You could see everyone who asked a question and they could see and hear us real well.”
Overall Hedrington said the locals were supportive of the project, however, that didn’t mean Hedrington and Meridian received a free pass.
“The locals that were there, the vast-majority were very supportive of the Davis Refinery,” Hedrington said. “We received a series of questions, probably the toughest questions came from the supporters.”
Hedrington said the brunt of the tough questions came from an environmental perspective and what Meridian Energy was doing to satisfy their concerns. He added that Meridian sent five of its executives to the public event, all from different spectrums of the refinery.
“We had people there talking about the permitting, operations, securing crude contracts, the off-loading of refined products, and so forth,” Hedrington said. “We were able to answer everyone’s question from people who were experts in that discipline or portion of the project.”
Theodore Roosevelt National Park was one of the concerns that stemmed from the environmental aspect of the Davis Refinery.
“From the beginning, we were directed by the leadership team at Meridian, specifically their CEO William Prentice, to take the concerns from the locals, the concerns from the Park, and the environment very seriously. Top priority kind of stuff,” Hedrington said.
Hedrington said the refinery has quite a bit of land to site the project and their current location wasn’t just throwing a dart at the map. Rather it was chosen specifically due to visibility concerns, during the day and at night from the view of TRNP and the city of Belfield.
“When we started doing our initial modeling just of the visual impacts of the facility, that if we put it in that location and lowered it down, it would be lower than the horizon line,” Hedrington said. “All of those efforts to minimize environmental and visual impacts are by design.”
There were other considerations for the site location too, according to Hedrington.
“We had to cite it for other reasons too, as far as connectivity to rail, pipelines and the highway system,” Hedrington said. “It is a great location for our model.”
Since the origin of the project, minimizing the visual and environmental impacts have been a top priority.
“Currently we are looking at putting in berms around the facility comprised of natural vegetation,” Hedrington explained. “We’ve reached out to the local universities for help and participation on the project too. So we will have the local universities helping with evaluating the visual impacts.”
The University is assisting by developing screening methods consisting of trees and other vegetation to reduce the visual impacts even more. Hedrington said by working with local groups and people on the project, it is allowing them to reduce concerns beyond Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
“The Park is a big issue obviously, but everywhere else we are trying to minimize it too,” Hedrington said. “Like using color schemes that match the existing terrain out there and other good ideas from the locals.”
Meridian Energy CEO William Prentice has publicly stated how the individuals and companies working on the Davis Refinery are going to become more engaged with the public so there will be a thread of communication with the residents to ensure any questions will be answered.
“Afterwards people came up and asked questions, kind of a one-on-one scenario, and it was very, very positive,” Hedrington said.
Hosting public meetings, creating relationships with the media and attending community events like the Bakken BBQ are just a few examples of how the crew building the Davis Refinery are getting in front of the Bakken community.
In addition to the environmental questions, other elements of the refinery were discussed too.
“We talked about water, jobs, the quality of workforce we will have at the facility,” Hedrington said.
Hedrington added the energy from the room reached a level that became inspiring and motivational for this industry-setting project.
“The locals seemed very appreciative of the efforts put forward by Meridian,” Hedrington said. “They showed that just by, the round of applause we received at the completion of it. It was very supportive and enthusiastic.”