It’s often said in business that location is key, but in the case of a potential plastics plant, it is even more so. Companies need two vital elements. They require not only the right oil and gas production, but proximity to underground salt deposits for storage.
Tioga’s economic developer Dennis Lindahl believes his city has just what the petrochemical industry is looking for in that respect. He met recently with a coalition in Tioga to talk about why he believes Tioga is the top choice for a plastics plant.
“There’s a good amount of salt deposits on the border of Mountrail and Williams County,” Lindahl told the Williston Herald. “And those would probably be more to the left, according to the state. The state did a feasibility study on CO2 capture, so that is the information we received is that those would be near Tioga.”
While Williston has an old salt cavern that was mined from 1960 to 1988, but later studies determined the cavern was not suitable for storing hydrocarbons.
Tioga also has the Hess plant, which was the first facility in the state capable of extracting ethane for sale. The company has also recently added to the Tioga plant’s capacity for ethane extraction.
“That’s tremendous infrastructure for them to obtain their raw product for the manufacture of plastics,” Lindahl said. “And then you also have the rail spur that is located in Tioga, which would be useful for them to carry away the manufactured product.”
The city also has a lift station, which enables it to handle large volumes of water.
“We know that plastics plants use a tremendous amount of water,” Lindahl said. “We have a $12 million mechanical lift station for our sewage, which many communities in North Dakota do not have.”
Lindahl believes Stanley will be Tioga’s main competition for petrochemical facilities. “They don’t have a lift station,” he said. “They have a three-lagoon cell.”
Another point he believes in Tioga’s favor is the existing power set-up.
“There isn’t a good electrical infrastructure system that goes to the west beyond Tioga,” he said. “So it might make sense for a power plant to locate in Tioga, and then Minot would have several lines that come in from two directions. That would make one big loop for Minot.”
As far as housing, the city also has a leg up on competitors, Lindahl said, because it’s housing isn’t full yet.
“We’re probably at close to 80 percent occupancy, so we have plenty of room to backfill,” he said.
In addition to available housing, the community has also added quality of life projects recently, with a new $5.2 million recreation center, as well as a brand new library and an ice skating rink.
“That was a part of our strategy which we have been pursuing the past three years,” Lindahl said. “We first wanted to organize activities. Like the drone camp for kids, which I think is one of the only STEM-certified camps in North Dakota.”
After that, the city focused on facilities, like the recreation center, and infrastructure, such as the lift station, to attract industry.
“It seems like especially with the mechanical lift water treatment system that Tioga would have a good advantage, plus water towers,” Lindahl said. “We have brand new water towers, so we think we are well-positioned.”
Still, Tioga’s eggs are not all in one basket. In addition to vying for a potential plastics plant, the city is pursuing two other potential developments. One is a proposed power plant that Mountrail Williams is looking to site in western North Dakota, and the other is a 60-employee mystery industry, with whom Lindahl has a non-disclosure agreement.
“It’s completely apart from the plastics plant or Mountrail Williams’ proposed power plant,” Lindahl said. “It’s not oil, and it’s not agriculture. It’s not a primary sector industry at all.”
The new plant will help diversify the western North Dakota economy, Lindahl said.
“It will be the biggest thing that’s ever happened in North Dakota, if we can pull it off,” he said. “The North Dakota Department of Commerce is interested. The governor is interested.”