The  Hyperion project, an 800 pound gorilla, an oil refinery PLUS a coal gasification (IGCC) plant (it morphed quite a bit over the years), proposed for agricultural land west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has been looming for a long time, but there’s evidence that the stakes through it’s slimy heart are having an impact.


In the Argus Leader:

Hyperion declines to renew options with Union County landowners

The stake in Hyperion’s slimy heart is that there’s no money:

“I don’t know why people are opposing Hyperion, but it’s not going to be built because they’ll never get financing,” he said. “Nobody’s going to put up that money. … Just because you have the piece of land and a state that will let you put it there doesn’t mean it makes sense.”


There’s no money to build Hyperion, no investors, another vaperware project sounding a lot like the AWA Goodhue wind project here in Goodhue Count, or Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project, coal gasification on the Iron Range.  It’s the lack of money that’s the real news:

Industry analysts question Hyperion

Two industry analysts are casting doubt on the viability of the proposed Hyperion oil refinery in Union County, though a company spokesman questioned the impartiality of their criticisms.

In an Aug. 20 article in the trade paper Platts Oilgram News, Malcom Turner, chairman of the firm Turner, Mason and Co. of Dallas, said financing will continue to be a problem for large projects such as Hyperion.

“Nobody would finance it,” he told Platts. “It would take forever to build.”

Dallas-based Hyperion Refining has proposed to build a $10 billion refinery in Union County to process 400,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude daily into various refined products. The company first applied for a Prevention of Significant Deterioration air quality permit from the state — the first of about a dozen permits it needs to collect before it can start up — in 2007.

In an interview with the Argus Leader, Turner said South Dakota is not a good fit for a large refinery because the Midwestern market won’t support any additional refined product.

“I don’t know why people are opposing Hyperion, but it’s not going to be built because they’ll never get financing,” he said. “Nobody’s going to put up that money. … Just because you have the piece of land and a state that will let you put it there doesn’t mean it makes sense.”

Via email, Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams disputed Turner’s assessment, saying that there is plenty of demand for refined product in the Midwest and that existing refining capacity is “old, outdated and inefficient.”

“There are many people in the investment community who recognize that fact and see the opportunity for building a new refinery that’s state-of-the-art both in terms of the environment and operating efficiency,” he wrote.

He also said siting the refinery in Union County would reduce pipeline tariffs as compared with those paid by Gulf refineries to ship refined products to the Midwest.

“From the beginning we’ve had doubters, and there are certainly some in the industry who don’t want to see our project built,” he wrote. “But we’ve invested scores of millions of dollars and are in it for the long haul.”

Rough road

The Platts article also quoted a friend of Turner’s, Glenn McGinnis, an industry consultant and CEO of Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma, which has had a $4.5 billion refinery in the works since the late 1990s.

“It doesn’t make sense to build a monster refinery on the prairie” because the area lacks the infrastructure to connect refined products to end markets, McGinnis told Platts.

Speaking Monday to the Argus Leader, McGinnis said his own experience trying to get a refinery financed and permitted are an indication that Hyperion has a tough road ahead.

“The technology selection is good, the opportunity for providing jobs and financial benefits is good and likely supported by a lot of folks,” he said of Hyperion’s proposal. “But to me, the infrastructure issues, and the ability to finance the project, are really going to make it difficult.”

Plans for his own refinery are tentatively on hold, McGinnis said, though it has an active air quality permit from the state. That project would pipe its crude from Mexico.

Part of the problem is that Arizona Clean Fuels, like other downstream projects, has had trouble securing financing in a down economy, despite not having drawn legal challenges as Hyperion has, McGinnis said.

The Sierra Club, Save Union County and Citizens Opposed to Oil Pollution have challenged Hyperion’s PSD air quality permit, a case that will be heard by the South Dakota Supreme Court Oct. 3 in Sioux Falls.

Williams, for his part, said McGinnis and Turner lack credibility because they are Hyperion’s competitors: McGinnis as CEO of a company that’s also trying to build a refinery, and Turner as an analyst who represents competing refiners.

“We’re not terribly concerned about what analysts say about our financing,” Williams said. “As a private company we don’t discuss those details. It’s like me requesting that upper management at the Argus to release their paystubs.”

Building pipeline

Phillips also told Platts the company recently spoke with the Canadian pipeline companies TransCanada and Enbridge about building a pipeline to carry crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to the refinery. Or Hyperion might build the line itself.

Williams declined to discuss details of these discussions “given the proprietary nature of these talks.”

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said via email that the company is “always looking for opportunities to connect supply to markets” but that he could not discuss specific proposals.

An Enbridge spokeswoman did not return messages.

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