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Hyperion Hopes To Break Ground By March

April 25, 2012, 5:56 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Hyperion Hopes To Break Ground By March

If Texas-based Hyperion had followed its original timeline a refinery in Union County would already be halfway through a four year construction project.

But, five years after the so-called 'Gorilla Project' was announced, not one shovel has been turned on the property north of Elk Point.

However, if Hyperion gets its way, officials believe this will be the last spring crop that will be planted on the Union County land set aside for a $10 billion oil refinery.

The Texas company said Wednesday it's confident construction will start by next March.

"The project has not moved as quickly as we would prefer but we are charging ahead," Hyperion Project Executive Preston Phillips said.

Phillips said right now the company is waiting on the South Dakota Supreme Court to make a decision on the air permit for the project, after opponents appealed the decision to grant the permit.

"We are confident the state will prevail in its decision to issue us the construction permit and we plan to start construction before March 15, 2013," Phillips said.

Opponents said the more the project is delayed, the more likely it will never happen, especially with a recent decision by President Barack Obama to block the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have been a major carrier of Canadian crude oil.

Hyperion plans to use Canadian oil in its refinery.

"We don't see the likelihood of another cross-border pipeline happening any time in the near future," Save Union County member Ed Cable said.

Save Union County is one of the groups appealing Hyperion’s air permit. Cable says on top of the growing opposition of Canadian crude, financing for large projects has become more difficult in the past five years.

"They don't have any raw product under contract. They have no pipeline coming in; they have none of the permits required prior to construction. They have no evidence of financing. They just have none of the things that a prudent business person would need to have before they could go out and get conventional financing in this very difficult financing climate," Cable said.

But, Phillips isn't worried about finding a pipeline.

"There are going to be pipeline solutions to bring that oil sands production to the United States," Phillips said.

He's confident the South Dakota Supreme Court will uphold the air permit and they will be able to secure the billions of dollars need for the project by next spring.

"We need to close the project financing," Phillips said.

Ben Dunsmoor: And you believe you can do that this coming fall?
Phillips: That is our intention, yes.

Hyperion needs to start construction on the refinery by March 15, 2013, because that's when its permit from the state expires.

If construction doesn't start by then, Hyperion will have to ask for a second extension. Project officials don't think they will have to do that.

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