Pine Bend Refinery

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Pine Bend Refinery in 2018

The Pine Bend Refinery is the largest oil refinery in Minnesota, located in the Twin Cities suburbs of Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights next to southern split of U.S. Highway 52 and Minnesota State Highway 55. The refinery is notable for being the largest in the United States to be located in a state without any oil wells.[citation needed] Overall, it ranked 14th in the country as of 2012 by production, with a nameplate capacity of 320,000 barrels (51,000 m3) per day.[1][2] The facility is owned by Flint Hills Resources (FHR), a subsidiary of Koch Industries.


The plant was first constructed in 1955[1] by the Great Northern Oil Company with a capacity of 25,000 barrels per day.[3] Koch Industries purchased a controlling interest in the plant in 1969.[4] Since then, capacity has grown more than tenfold.

As of 2001, Minnesotans were using a total of 7.2 million US gallons (27,000 m3) of gasoline per day, and fuel use continues to climb in the region by about 2% annually.[5] About 70% of the gasoline fuel used in the state comes from Pine Bend and the nearby St. Paul Park Refinery, while most of the rest comes from the Mandan Refinery in North Dakota, and the Superior Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin. Only 40 to 50% of Pine Bend's output is used within the state.

Facility renovation[edit]

In 2006 the plant underwent a "$350 million project to produce a diesel fuel containing substantially less sulfur."[6]

In 2012 the company proposed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a $400 million upgrade to help move the refinery "closer to its processing capacity of 320,000 barrels of crude per day and also reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide". It was estimated that the refinery was responsible for 2% of Minnesota's total greenhouse-gas emissions, about 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The expansion is also expected to increase the "average daily contract workforce to more than 1,000 workers". If approved by the EPA, the upgrade is set to begin in 2014,[6] and include the replacement of the plant's three less-efficient heaters with two state-of-the-art model heaters, upgrades to an existing process heater, as well as improvements to the cooling towers.[7]

Environmental and safety record[edit]

The site was placed on the National Priorities List in 1986, and recovery wells, ground water gradient control, and soil gas extraction were installed and implemented between 1988 and 2004 in order to recover any oil that had been spilled in the storage tank area of the 1,200 acre site during previous decades.[8] Though FHR had paid almost $19 million in environmental fines in the 1990s and 2000, by 1999 the company had begun making changes to improve efficiency and minimize environmental impact. By 2005 the refinery was "producing more gasoline, jet and other fuels while managing to cut harmful emissions into the air, water and ground by more than 50 percent since 1999", and took first place in the annual Minnesota Environmental Initiative awards that year.[9]

The Pine Bend refinery and the northern division of the Koch Pipeline Company won multiple awards in Occupational Safety from the Minnesota Safety Council since 2000, including the Governor's Safety Award for Outstanding Achievement. The awards recognized "a sustained track record of safety performance," as exemplified by "sustained reductions in OSHA recordable incidents by 86 percent at Pine Bend since 1993 and by 86 percent at Koch Pipeline Company's Northern Division since 1995."[10]

The Pine Bend refinery also received four safety awards at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) conference in 2001.[10] It earned a Clear Air Award from the EPA in 2004 and a Special Recognition Certificate for its Clean Air Awards Program from the EPA in 2005. It also received the Minnesota Conservation Award from Xcel Energy for saving 8.7 million kilowatt hours during 2006. The refinery has been a MNSTAR-designated site since 2005, meaning that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry considers it a safe workplace with effective safety and health-management systems.[11]

The refinery earned the Wastewater Treatment Facility Operational Award in 2011 and the Operator Award in 2010 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It has also earned several American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers' safety awards, including Meritorious Safety Performance and Gold awards. FHR's products terminals in Minnesota have received the Platinum Safety Award from the International Liquid Terminals Association for their commitment to continuous safety improvement. Also, the Pine Bend refinery earned the Minnesota Safety Council's highest safety award, the Award of Honor for three consecutive years, in addition to winning the MSC's Outstanding Achievement Award.[11][12]

Pipeline system[edit]

Most petroleum enters and exits the plant through a Koch-owned, 537-mile pipeline system that stretches across Minnesota and Wisconsin.[13] 80% of the incoming oil is heavy crude from the Alberta Oil Sands in Canada[13] and is brought from the northwest to the facility through the Lakehead and Minnesota pipelines. Additional crude comes from the south via the Wood River Pipeline, though plans are in place to reverse the flow of that line.

The plant has a dedicated pipeline to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that provides jet fuel for aircraft. Another major exit route for distilled products is the Wisconsin Pipeline, which brings fuel eastward into the neighboring state. Fuel is also distributed by semi-trailer trucks, railroad cars, and, occasionally, river barges. Pine Bend Refinery dredges sediment from the nearby Mississippi River to ensure that its barges don't bottom out.[14]


  1. ^ a b Shaffer, David (November 16, 2012). "Rosemount refinery to get $400 million upgrade". Star Tribune.
  2. ^ "Refinery Rankings". U.S. Energy Information Agency. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  3. ^ Suzukamo, Leslie Brooks (September 23, 2007). "Refinery expands, and none too soon". Pioneer Press.
  4. ^ Pangburn, DJ (October 13, 2010). "A Look at Tea Party Sugar Daddies the Koch Brothers". Death and Taxes.
  5. ^ Gendler, Neal (July 2, 2005). "The Big Gulp." Star Tribune.
  6. ^ a b "Minn. refinery seeks approval for $400M upgrade". Pioneer Press. AP. November 17, 2012.
  7. ^ SunThisweek. "Flint Hills to implement more stringent energy efficiency, emission standards". Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Koch Refining Company/N-Ren Corp". US EPA. February 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  9. ^ St. Anthony, Neal (May 5, 2005). On business: The winners: Environment, ethics, investors. Star Tribune.
  10. ^ a b Hofland, John. "Koch Refinery and Koch Pipeline Company Earn Governor's Safety Award for Second Straight Year" (PDF). Koch. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  11. ^ a b Reint, Jake. "Minnesota Facts" (PDF). FHR. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  12. ^ Bulk Transporter. "Flint Hills Resources firms receive 57 awards for 2009". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  13. ^ a b Sassoon, David (February 10, 2011). "Koch Brothers Positioned To Be Big Winners If Keystone XL Pipeline Is Approved". Reuters.
  14. ^ "NPDES and SDS Permit to Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend - Dredging". Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Retrieved 12 August 2013.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°46′0″N 93°2′30″W / 44.76667°N 93.04167°W / 44.76667; -93.04167