Marathon Petroleum’s Dickinson petroleum refinery has been converted into a renewable diesel facility. Image courtesy of Marathon Petroleum Corporation.
The Dickinson renewable diesel facility achieved the full production capacity of 12,000bpd in the second quarter of 2021. Image courtesy of Marathon Petroleum Corporation.
One Energy has agreed to install five 2.3MW wind turbines at the Dickinson renewable diesel facility. Image courtesy of eltpics.

The Dickinson oil refinery, owned by Marathon Petroleum in North Dakota, US, has been converted into a renewable diesel facility.

Dakota Prairie Refining, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum, owns and operates the Dickinson renewable diesel facility, which is currently claimed to be the second biggest renewable fuels facility in the US with a production capacity of 12,000 barrels of renewable diesel a day (bpd).

Marathon Petroleum gained control of the 19,000bpd Dickinson oil refinery along with nine other refineries in the US by acquiring Andeavor (formerly Tesoro) in October 2018.

While Andeavor had announced the plan for the Dickinson refinery conversion in August same year, Marathon Petroleum launched the £386m ($500m) project by awarding key contracts in 2019.

The refinery started producing renewable diesel from refined soy oil and other organically derived feedstocks in late 2020 and became a 100% renewable diesel facility by reaching the design production capacity of 184 million gallons a year in the second quarter of 2021.

As part of the sustainability strategy to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations, Marathon Petroleum is also progressing on the plan to convert its 161,000bpd Martinez refinery in California into 730 million gallons a year renewable fuels facility by the end of 2023.

Dickinson renewable diesel plant location and feedstock

Spread over 345 acres, the refinery site is located 6.5km west of Dickinson, in Stark County, North Dakota, US.

The feedstock for the Dickinson renewable fuels facility includes corn oil and soybean oil. California is the primary market for the renewable diesel produced by the facility.

As part of the refinery conversion project, Marathon Petroleum acquired and expanded a rail loading and receiving terminal in Dickinson to handle the feedstock for the renewable diesel plant.

The company also acquired a 58 million gallons a year vegetable oils and animal fats pre-treating and storage facility in Beatrice, Nebraska, for supplying renewable feedstock to the refinery, in 2020.

Dickinson renewable diesel refinery details

The processing units in the Dickinson renewable diesel facility include a new hydrogen plant, hydrogen compressors, and a renewable diesel hydrotreater train utilising Haldor Topsoe’s HydroFlex™ hydrotreating technology.

A project to retrofit the 8,000bpd diesel hydrotreater unit and other equipment of the erstwhile Dickinson petroleum refinery was completed in 2018 to allow the co-processing of renewable feedstock. It enabled the production of up to 5% renewable diesel blend at the refinery.

Marathon Petroleum made the final decision to entirely convert the refinery for renewable diesel production, following the retrofit.

Wind power project at the Dickinson renewable diesel facility

Marathon Petroleum entered an agreement with One Energy Enterprises to install five 2.3MW wind turbines at the Dickinson renewable diesel facility in May 2021. Each turbine will have a hub height of 262ft and a tip height of approximately 400ft.

Subject to regulatory permits for the start of construction, the wind power facility is anticipated to begin operations in the fourth quarter of 2022.

As per the agreement, One Energy will develop, own, and operate the turbines at the refinery site, while MPC will purchase the entire power output from One Energy for 20 years.

The wind power delivered by One Energy is expected to significantly lower the carbon footprint of the renewable diesel facility by meeting approximately 45% of its total power requirement.

The onsite wind farm will also enable the renewable diesel output of the Dickinson refinery to qualify for low-carbon fuel credits in California.

Contractors involved in the Dickinson renewable diesel project

Worley was contracted by Marathon Petroleum to provide detailed engineering services as well as procure equipment and materials for the conversion of the Dickinson petroleum refinery into a 100% renewable diesel facility in December 2019.

Worley previously also offered engineering services during the early concept phase of the refinery conversion project.

Haldor Topsoe was contracted to license its HydroFlex™ technology for hydrotreating renewable feedstocks at the Dickinson facility to produce renewable diesel that meets the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (CA-LCFS).

TIC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kiewit, was engaged as a general contractor for the Dickinson refinery renewable diesel project. It was responsible for the concrete foundation, area paving, and electrical grounding works for the new hydrogen plant, diesel hydrotreater unit and power distribution centre, as well as for the remote instrument enclosure and hydrogen compressors.

Dickinson petroleum refinery history

Formerly known as the Dakota Prairie refinery, the Dickinson refinery commenced operations in May 2015 and was the first new oil refinery to be constructed in the US since 1985.

The refinery was built and initially operated by Dakota Prairie Refining, a joint venture between MDU Resources and Calumet Specialty Products. Tesoro acquired the refinery in June 2016.

The 19,000bpd refinery primarily processed domestic crude oil from North Dakota to produce ultra-low sulphur diesel and gasoline blendstocks, before it was permanently shut down in June 2020.