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RE: First refinery in the U.S. since 1976

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Oil refinery boss visits Elk Point

By The Associated Press
ELK POINT — The head of a Texas firm that might build an $8 billion to $10 billion oil refinery in southeastern South Dakota was in Elk Point Wednesday for a private picnic with landowners.

Albert Huddleston, Hyperion Resources president, said he wanted to get acquainted with the locals and get a better feeling for the town’s “harmony and chemistry.”

But Huddleston refused to answer questions about the secretive project. “I don’t want to ever say anything that I’m going to have to back up on,” he said. The visit came two weeks before some local land-option agreements expire.

Hyperion announced in June that a site 10 miles north of Elk Point is among candidates for a large oil refinery, the first new refinery in the U.S. since 1976.

Company officials have said it would take 4,500 workers to build the plant, and it would provide about 1,800 permanent jobs.
Opponents worry the refinery may pollute the environment.

Huddleston and Richard White, a former Marathon Oil executive, planned to attend an evening picnic at the home of Joyce Bortscheller, who said the purpose was to talk with landowners who had signed the agreements.

After the picnic, landowner Donald Abraham said it was purely social.

“I couldn’t detect anything but good will,” he said, adding that he did not hear any talk of choosing the Elk Point area for the refinery site or of renewing land options. “It was fun to attend, because you actually see the people that you’re doing business with. But there was no business,” Abraham said.

Jana Foltz, Union County register of deeds, said she had heard about the meeting from landowners but was not invited. It’s possible Hyperion executives wanted to reassure landowners who had signed option agreements that expire Aug. 31, she said.

The agreements allow Hyperion to renew for another year at its discretion and for an undisclosed fee.
“I have heard that a couple of people want to renege on their options,” Foltz said. Hyperion officials have said more information will be released once it picks a site from among several being considered.

The Argus Leader reported that a timeline on the company’s Web site indicates construction would begin in 2009 and that the plant would be in full operation by 2013.

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