Cerilon logo

Cerilon will be in front of the Williams County Board of Commissioners Tuesday with a request to change its zoning to heavy industrial for a $2.8 billion gas to liquids facility that has been proposed for the Trenton area.

The applicant will not be applying for a conditional use permit at that time. Under the current process, the zoning change doesn’t require a detailed scenario, a matter that came up during the Planning and Zoning discussion.

Williams County Planning Official Samantha Miller explained the reason the company is not yet applying for a CUP, and a little of the process going forward.

“A CUP expires 18 months after approval,” she told the Williston Herald. “The applicant is unsure that they will be ready to begin construction in the next 18 months.”

The zoning change does not give the company a green light to construct. They will still need the conditional use permit first, which is generally the point in the process where details like where and how many trees will be required to preserve the view, setbacks, safety requirements, and so forth are spelled out in detail.

“(The CUP process) has a public hearing process, so those residents who felt like they need to be heard and want to be heard, which they have every right to, can also attend the meetings for the CUP as well,” Development Services Director Kameron Hymer told the Williston Herald.

Hymer added that Planning and Zoning has recommended that the zone change not take effect until the company has obtained the CUP, and that, if the CUP is obtained, the whole thing could expire if the company doesn’t begin construction within the allotted 18 months.

They could request an extension, if construction doesn’t begin on time, but would then have to show a just cause for that extension. Any extensions would be granted administratively, and would not require an additional public hearing.

Cerilon is building what will be one of the North Dakota’s largest economic expansion projects with the proposed plant, which would start with an initial 24,000 barrels per day of ultra-low sulfur diesel and other speciality products.

On Cerilon’s webpage, it also mentions producing military-grade jet fuel, naphtha, and Group III base oils as among petroleum products it could produce from natural gas sourced in the Bakken, where gas to oil ratios continue to climb, threatening the production of future crude oil.

“Our paramount goal is to deliver sustainable, long-term value to our stakeholders, community, and the environment. The state-of-the-art GTL facility will be the lowest carbon footprint facility of its kind in the world,“ said Nico Duursema, Cerilon Inc. Chairman.

The company’s timeline calls for constructing the facility in early 2023. The location chosen in Trenton will allow access to both rail and pipeline, and also has carbon sequestration opportunities, which the company has said it plans to pursue. It hopes to sequester as much as 2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Both North Dakota and Williams County have provided assistance to the company that’s building Cerilon. Williams County has agreed to provide a $6 million, no-interest loan, while North Dakota has agreed to loan the Canada-based company $3 million from its Development Fund.

Cerilon was also one of two companies in Williams County winning grants from the newly created Clean Sustainable Energy Authority. Cerilon was approved for a $7 million grant, with the stipulation of a one-to-one match, and a loan of $40 million. The other company that received CSEA funding was Wellspring Hydro, which received a $1 million grant to pull out commercially viable commodities including salts and ultimately lithium from produced water.

The Cerilon plant, once built, would represent a first stepping stone in a value-added petrochemicals industry for the state, something officials have been trying for years to achieve at scale.

Cerilon officials told Williams County Commissioners that they have already lined up a “super major” partnership that will buy 100 percent of all their products. The partnerships are with two of the top five energy companies in the world.

“What we have is really a perfect deal in the sense that 100 percent of all our products that we will be producing, they want to buy, and they’ve given us an off take agreement for that,” Duursema told Commissioners. “They’ve also given us a supply agreement. And then, on top of that, the licensing of the technology is, you know, from a partnership of two of the top five majors in the world.”

The Cerilon plant is different from a biofuels plant also being discussed for the Trenton area. SAFuels X was also in the running for a CSEA grant along with Cerilon and Wellspring Hydro, but dropped out of the running and said it would return for a future grant round. Wellspring Hydro, a Williams County company seeking to extract useful commodities from produced water like salts and lithium, was also in the running and received a 1.1 million grant from the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority.

Load comments