Written by John Plestina
The old Kenco Refinery site east of Wolf Point will require a major clean up if plans for a new refinery are approved. (Submitted photo)
The former Kenco Refinery east of Wolf Point, now closed 29 years, could be the site of the proposed Fort Peck Clean Energy Campus that could include a new oil refinery that would serve the Bakken Oil Field.
Ken Elliott and Steve Houston, doing business locally as Wolf Point Green LLC, purchased the former Kenco site in December 2011 with plans to build a new refinery that could accommodate 20,000 barrels daily, a wind farm and solar and geothermal energy production. There are also long-range plans that include greenhouses heated with energy produced within the site and a commercial fish farm.
“Ours is what is called a clean-energy campus,” Elliott said.
The alternative energy produced on-site would partially power the refinery.
“If the refinery is the only thing that is built, we are missing the mark,” Elliott said.
He said he envisions a hotel at the site and a rail terminal that would serve the oil industry and promote oil industry development in Montana.
“There are 15 crude oil terminals in North Dakota. We’ve got none in Montana,” Elliott said.
He said the refinery and rail terminal could be built within two to three years.
Elliott hopes to create a substantial number of jobs that people living in the Wolf Point and Poplar areas could benefit from. Elliott said he wants to employ Native Americans and veterans.
The site, located about six miles east of Wolf Point on Montana Hwy. 13, is about one half mile south of U.S. Hwy 2. There is an abandoned oil refinery, which has been reported as being in operation from 1965 to 1985. Elliott said the refinery actually opened in 1963.
One major hurdle lies ahead. A cleanup of an estimated 315,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil is estimated by a recent study to cost about $30 million. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost at $25 million in 2008.
The EPA declared the former Kenco refinery a superfund cleanup site in 1997. It is a designated Brownfield site where expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the property might be complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.
Wolf Point Green is working with the Wolf Point headquartered Great Northern Development Corporation and the Eastern Montana Brownfields Coalition. The two organizations are administering the Clean Up Revolving Loan Fund and Assessment Grant for petroleum and hazardous substance cleanup.
“This is a significant Brownfield site,” Elliott said.
He said he hopes to recycle about 750,000 gallons of old product by running it through the future refinery.
There are also several tanks at the site with old product that has turned into sludge.
Elliott said GNDC contacted him several years ago about the Kenco site.
Elliott, who lived in Colorado at the time of the purchase, said he now lives in Wolf Point. He also is president of the Colorado-
based Fidelis Environmental Risk Management which represents clients Brownfield site developments, environmental construction and other services.
“There’s obviously a cleanup solution. It’s a matter of how much it’s going to cost,” Elliott said.
“Because of the proximity to the Bakken and the need for diesel in the area, there is a heck of a need,” he said.
Currently, much of the region’s crude oil is leaving the Bakken headed south for refining. There is only one small refinery in North Dakota, located at Mandan.
The Roosevelt County Commissioners voted Tuesday, May 13, to sponsor a $500,000 grant GNDC is writing for Wolf Point Green to help pay for the Kenco cleanup.
The commissioners approved a letter of support for Wolf Point Green in January 2012.