Flint Hills adding solar at Pine Bend refinery

May 16, 2022
Flint Hills Resources approved a project that will involve construction of a solar installation to help power operations, lower energy costs, improve energy efficiency, and reduce emissions at the Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, Minn.

Flint Hills Resources LLC (FHR), Wichita, Kan., has approved a project that will involve construction of one of the US’ largest solar installations to help power operations, lower energy costs, improve energy efficiency, and reduce emissions at subsidiary Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend LLC’s (FHR Pine Bend) 335,000-b/d Pine Bend refinery in the city of Rosemount, Dakota County, Minn., 17 miles southeast of Minneapolis.

As part of the planned $75-million project announced on May 10, FHR is building a 45-Mw solar installation that will include at least 100,000 9-14-ft panels across 200 acres of a 300-acre tract of company-owned property immediately adjacent and connecting directly to FHR Pine Bend’s refining complex, the company said in a release.

In what it anticipates will become the US’ largest single-site use of direct solar power upon completion, FHR said the planned installation will have a peak solar-energy production capacity to satisfy roughly 30% of the refinery’s 135-Mw power needs during optimal conditions, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 8,400 homes/year.

Arizona-based DEPCOM Power Inc.—a fellow subsidiary of FHR’s owner Koch Industries Inc.—has already been awarded a contract to deliver engineering, procurement, and construction services on the project, which is scheduled to be completed within a year from the start of construction, FHR confirmed.

Once operable, the solar installation will become FHR Pine Bend’s second source of on-site power generation following completion of its combined heat and power (CHP) system in 2019, which currently supplies the refinery about 50 Mw of electricity, or roughly 40% of what is required to power daily operations (OGJ Online, Dec. 11, 2019).

Combined and under optimal operating conditions, then, the solar installation and CHP on-site power sources could fulfill as much as 70% of the Rosemount complex’s daily power requirements, enabling the refinery to reduce energy losses associated with long-distance transmission, transformation, and distribution of utility supply, according to the operator.

Additionally, FHR said it plans to add pollinator-friendly habitat within FHR Pine Bend’s solar development, which will add several hundred acres to the complex’s overall habitat management program that currently includes property east of the refinery, near the Mississippi River. Further details on that leg of the project, however, have yet to be revealed.

Alongside supplying most of the transportation fuels used in Minnesota and a large portion of fuels used throughout the Upper Midwest, the FHR Pine Bend refinery also produces asphalt, home heating fuels, as well as raw materials used in a wide range of manufacturing processes, including fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and plastics.