There's less mystery about whether there will be a giant oil refinery expansion just a stone's throw from Lake Superior, the Greatest of the Great Lakes.
While no permit applications have been received, both technical and senior regulators have met and communicated frequently with Murphy Oil representatives since 2006 regarding the company's efforts to expand refining capacity at its Superior, WI, facility from 35,000 barrels daily to 235,000 daily, according to records obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources under the Wisconsin Open Records law.
The $6 billion expansion would process Alberta, Canadian tar sand crude oil, as exploitation of that vast resource is expanding and North American refineries are needed to process and ship it.
"As you recall, at the kick-off meeting with the Secretary's Office on 10/23/06," said DNR Energy Office Director David Siebert in an April 9, 2007 email to fifteen DNR colleagues, "Murphy said they were seeking a partner before publicly announcing a project. At a meeting with Murphy last week, they indicated the project was ready to be called a project."
Continued Siebert: "While Murphy still says they are developing a "potential project," they also felt comfortable with us moving forward on bringing in key staff to get ready for review."
"Because the project would involve impacts to 300-400 acres of wetlands," Siebert said, there would be involvement with the US Army Corps of Engineers, other federal agencies, company consultants, and that federal and state reviews would occur.
The documents indicate that:
- a federal environmental impact statement will be required as well as permits from the federal and state government.
- bird and plant field surveys on the proposed 425-acre Superior site have already begun;
- federal officials in Illinois and Minnesota have joined in the discussions;
- Army Corps of Engineers regulators outlined the applicable federal processes to Murphy and DNR representatives as early as May 18, 2006.
I'll post additional details later.