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Flint Hills plans two big projects

With one big construction project just getting under way, Rosemount’s Flint Hills Refinery is already making plans for two additional renovations it says will improve efficiency and allow the production of cleaner gasoline while opening the door to new products.

The two projects, which still need permits from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and approval from Flint Hills Resources management, will cost an estimated $300 million and could get under way in 2015.

The first of the new projects, referred to as combined heat and power, will allow Flint Hills to generate about half of the power required to run the refinery through the use of natural gas and heat captured from refinery operations.

Generating power on-site will be more efficient because less electricity will be lost as it travels along power lines, said Jake Reint, director of public affairs for Flint Hills.

The project came out of discussions with environmental groups as part of the $400 million construction project that’s getting under way this year.

“It just made a lot of sense for us to (generate electricity) now,” Reint said. “We’re a very competitive industry. We have to do everything we can to stay viable.

“We need to be more efficient than ever.”

The combined heat and power project will likely lead to a reduction in emissions overall related to power generation, but because more of that generation will happen at the refinery it could mean an increase in emissions in Rosemount, Reint said.

The other project proposed by Flint Hills would remove sulfur from the gasoline the refinery produces while also creating liquid fertilizer. The process is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.

Refineries are required to reduce sulfur in the gasoline they produce in order to meet pending Environmental Protection Agency standards.

All of these projects likely mean things will be busy at the Rosemount refinery for the foreseeable future. Flint Hills started work this year on a project that will increase capacity and reduce emissions. That five-year project was expected to increase the number of contractors at the refinery to more than 1,000 per day. If these two new projects are approved they will increase that number to more than 1,500 per day, Reint said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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