Hyperion Resources says it does not expect the poor economy to derail plans to have a $10 billion oil refinery operating in southeast South Dakota by 2015.
The statement Thursday came in response to South Dakota governor candidates Dennis Daugaard and Scott Heidepriem both saying this week that they are unsure whether the plant will be built, in part because financing the project might be difficult.
Hyperion spokesman Eric Williams said the Dallas-based company is not commenting on specifics of the financing but that in the past six weeks there has been "a real uptick in inquiries from potential investors, wanting to be ahead of the curve when the economy does come back."
"Remember, our startup is scheduled for 2015, so the economy has substantial time to become more robust before we're producing ultra-low-sulfur gas and diesel," he said. "Investors see that as an opportunity."
The Hyperion refinery on 3,800 acres of farmland near Elk Point would process 400,000 barrels of Canadian crude a day. It would be the first new U.S. oil refinery built since 1976.
Opponents worry about its effects on the environment, and not just in South Dakota.
The head of Iowa's Department of Natural Resources recently asked South Dakota officials to study the environmental effects in that state of the proposed refinery. Iowa DNR Director Richard Leopold acknowledged South Dakota is under no obligation to do so but that it made sense to assess the impact of the project on the air, water and land of northwest Iowa.
Hyperion said numerous issues being raised by Leopold already have been addressed. South Dakota's Department of Environment and Natural Resources did not immediately respond to Iowa's request.
South Dakota's Board of Minerals and Environment granted an air quality permit for the refinery last August. The Sierra Club and two local groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the permit, saying it does not address some environmental issues.