Marathon Dickinson Renewable Fuels Facility adds wind power; bolsters long-term viability

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Marathon Petroleum has converted it's Dickinson Refinery into renewable biofuels; now it's adding wind power

Marathon Dickinson Renewable Fuels Facility is a major economic driver for Stark County. The Marathon Petroleum Corporation facility provides 100 full-time employees and twenty contractors, $19 million in local wages and benefits annually, and $2.1 million in property taxes.

Now, the facility is getting a new addition that will increase the value of the renewable diesel produced there to keep the large employer competitive in the long term.

Marathon Dickinson Renewable Fuels Facility is the second-largest renewable diesel refinery in the nation and it’s teaming up with industrial wind power company One Energy Enterprises LLC.

One Energy is putting up the capital and installing five 2.3 megawatt wind turbines on-site. They will provide up to 45% of the Marathon Petroleum facility’s electricity for a 20-year commitment.

CEO Jereme Kent started the company eleven years ago.

“I was building the big wind projects you see out in fields from highways, and I realized there was something more interesting out there, and it was trying to help end-users take control of their own on-site generation needs,” explained Kent.

One Energy is the largest installer of on-site wind energy in the country, helping take control of their utilities.

“A business where you can predict energy costs, right. If you think about any business and the variability that you see in utility pricing. It’s pretty hard to bet on an energy-intensive business utilities keeping costs down for you,” explained Kent.

In addition to creating better efficiency for the facility, the wind energy component lessens the carbon intensity of the end-product, the renewable diesel; giving it greater value in export markets with lower carbon fuel standards.

“When you talk about facilities like this when they’re measured on the end products carbon intensity, one of the best things you can do is control the inputs, and if you can lower the inputs on a facility like this, electricity being one of the major inputs, that has a very big impact at the end of the day when the product comes out of this facility,” explained Kent.

Mike Higgins is Area Team Leader at Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and he has been with the company for 24 years. Higgins and his wife moved to Stark County from out of state back in May of 2020 to get involved with the new endeavor.

“Southern Illinois, much like North Dakota, is a lot of agriculture ground and oil production – so I’ve grown up around it all my life, seen it all my life, and I’ve known, hey I want to get into that industry,” said Higgins.

Higgins tells KX that Marathon purchased the Dickinson facility in 2018. The company invested $500 million to convert the facility from crude oil to renewable diesel. Marathon Dickinson Renewable Fuels Facility launched in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Essentially it’s the same process. The difference is you’re taking a different feedstock which is soybean oil and corn oil as opposed to hydrocarbon crude oil,” explained Higgins.

Higgins explains the existing infrastructure was already there, “if you didn’t know it. It’s all liquid, the same piece of pipes, the pumps, the vessels, the reactors, and it’s all the same process.”

The renewable fuel’s feedstock: 3 million acres worth of corn and 1.5 million acres of soy is brought to the facility by rail car.

ADM and Marathon Petroleum have announced a new soybean crushing plant in Spiritwood that will feed the Marathon facility. North Dakota Farmers Union Vice President Bob Kuylen says it’s welcomed news for local soy producers.

“750 thousand acres or more of production will be crushed by this plant and sent to this plant in Dickinson to be made into biodiesel so it has a huge influence on farmers and the price they pay and the freight they won’t have to pay if they go to another crushing plant,” explained Kuylen

The refinery produces 12,000 barrels of renewable diesel per day. It’s taken by train to the West Coast where it’s shipped south to California.

One Energy will begin construction on the wind turbines after winter and will begin operating in late 2022. It will be a $24 million additional investment in Stark County and is projected to generate $940,000 in taxes over the life of the project.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation is the 5th largest employer in Stark County and the 6th largest in North Dakota.

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