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Flint Hills celebrates 60 years this weekend

The Pine Bend Refinery opened in 1955 as part of the Great Northern Oil Company. Much has changed since.1 / 2
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As Flint Hills Resources gets set to celebrate Pine Bend Refinery’s 60th year of operation, director of public affairs Jake Reint said it’s really a celebration of the people who have kept the plant going all these years.

“We want to celebrate the people and partnerships that have made Pine Bend one of the best refineries in America,” said Reint.

The Pine Bend Refinery will host an open house from 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 8 to commemorate the facility’s 60th anniversary. Reint said they expect more than 1,000 attendees for the event.

The Pine Bend Refinery started operating in 1955. While none of the original Great Northern Oil Company infrastructure remains, the basic function — processing Canadian crude oil — continues.

The original refinery processed 25,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil a day. Vice president of refining operations Scott Lindemann said today the refinery processes more than 330,000 barrels a day.

“Going from 30,000 to 300,000 barrels doesn’t happen without good people, said Lindemann.

While the refinery started as part of the Great Northern Oil Company, it has been part of Koch Industries since 1969.

Pine Bend is among the top processors of Canadian crude in the United States, said Lindemann. The refinery produces 50 percent of the gasoline and diesel fuel used across Minnesota and 40 percent of Wisconsin’s.

In addition to fuel, the facility produces asphalt used for road construction; propane for heating; sulfur used for fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and other products; propylene, which is used to make plastics; petroleum coke used to generate electricity; and aviation fuel for hobby aircraft.

Lindemann said the company’s focus on safety and the environment has been key to its success and will be going into the future. The company makes continued investments into both areas.

In particular, Lindemann said considerable work and investments have been made to the refinery to improve air quality. Since 1997, the facility has lowered its emissions by 68 percent. In 2012, Flint Hills announced plans to make more than $400 million in improvements to the refinery to improve reliability, reduce key emissions and improve efficiency.

The refinery has also made investments into technology including the recent completion of a high-tech laboratory where Flint Hills Resources scientists conduct product-quality tests. Construction is under way on an onsite heat and power system that will supply the refinery 50 megawatts of electricity.

“The challenge never stops,” said Lindemann of improving and updating the plant.

Over the years, Reint said, the refinery has worked to create partnerships to better the refinery as well as the community around it.

Some of the refinery’s noteworthy partnerships include work with Ducks Unlimited to help protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the state. Since 2001 the refinery has worked with Friends of the Mississippi to restore the natural prairie in the Pine Bend Bluffs along the Mississippi River.

That same year, the company began sponsoring the Flint Hills International Children’s Festival. And the company grants money to college-bound students through its Discovery Scholarships. Lindemann said to date Flint Hills has given out more than $750,000 to students.

As part of the open house, Flint Hills will give public tours of the Pine Bend Refinery. Reint said the refinery rarely offers tours and 800 people have already registered.

In addition to the tours, the open house will feature food trucks, information booths on a wide variety of topics and more.

“All are welcome and we hope to see a lot of people from the community out there,” said Reint.

To learn more about Flint Hills Resources’ Pine Bend Refinery visit pinebendrefinery.com.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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