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DENR Errs on Hyperion Air Permit

December 13, 2009
[reprinted from EcoForum, October 2009]

The Hyperion oil processing plant received a preconstruction air permit from the SD Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) and the SD Board of Minerals and Environment (BME). Despite the EPA’s detailed criticisms of the draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Air Permit, the DENR issued the flawed permit, with few changes made.

Contact these EPA officials regarding Hyperion’s Air Quality Permit:

  • Callie A. Videtich, Director
    Air and Radiation Program
    US EPA Region 8-80C-EISC
    1595 Wynkoop Street
    Denver, Colorado 80202-1129
  • Carol Rushin
    Acting Regional Director
    US EPA Region 8-80C-EISC
    1595 Wynkoop Street
    Denver, CO 80202-1129
  • Lisa Jackson, Administrator
    U.S. EPA
    Ariel Rios Building
    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20460

The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment approved the permit unanimously with little discussion even though numerous flaws and omissions were obvious. Please ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to overturn the decision of the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources (DENR) and the Board of Minerals and Environment to issue a preconstruction air permit to the Hyperion Energy Center (HEC).

If you think that an oil processing plant, emitting 19 million tons of carbon dioxide a year along with tons of carcinogens, should be constructed according to the Best Available Control Technology, please read the following and select one or two areas you feel strongly about and ask for the help of the EPA. Below is a partial list of some the numerous deficiencies and omissions of the permit.

1. There are many omissions and deficiencies in the permit relative to the Best Available Control Technologies (BACT). BACT is mandated by the U.S. Clean Air Act. To determine a BACT a permit must show that a specific technology is selected after considering the types and sources of emission, regional environmental impact, and cost. Hyperion’s refinery is a polluting source that falls under the EPA standard for New Source Review guidelines. The EPA was very critical of the BACT analyses in the draft air permit and few changes were made by the DENR. Among the many BACT problems are the following.

  • Leak-less valves could prevent fugitive pollutant leaks. The permit did not show an analysis explaining why leak-less control equipment was not specified. There was no modeling for fugitive emissions.
  • Details of monitoring emissions were omitted. In the case of the thousands of valves, the method listed is leak detection and repair. None of the modern monitoring systems employed in Europe and under consideration by the EPA to monitor total emissions were considered. No BACT or options were presented.
  • Cost documentation is missing or suspect throughout the document. Unless the cost and effectiveness of alternative systems is presented, it is impossible to judge the “best” choice of technologies.
  • There is no BACT given showing why control equipment is water cooled rather than air cooled. Air cooling could save millions of gallons of water daily.
  • Enclosed ground flares are being used in many recently modernized refineries Enclosed ground flares were never even considered in the permit despite many characteristics that make them superior to tall candle flares.
  • BACTS were omitted for storage tanks, nitrogen oxide emissions from small process heaters, cooling processes and CO2 emissions from the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant vent.
  • The DENR has granted a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Air Permit for the sixth largest refinery in the U.S. and has not required a Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction Plan (SSM). Without a plan there could be no BACT.

2. Hyperion did not demonstrate compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). NAAQS requires the EPA to set standards for six criteria air contaminants: ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and particulate matter. There are two classes of particulate matter. PM10 are coarse particles 10 micrometers to 2.5 micrometers in diameter. PM2.5 are fine particles and are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. Huge polluting sources must have background analyses of the NAAQS to make certain the new source will not exceed quantities obviously detrimental to health. New source quantities + background = projected post construction quantities.

Strangely, the background data used was from Sioux Falls, more than 50 miles to the north, rather than Sioux City, about 25 miles away. Sioux City has much higher background levels of PM2.5 than Sioux Falls. Had Sioux City been used, the background added to the new emission source would almost certainly have exceeded the NAAQS for 24 hour emissions.

Sioux City also shares the same wind patterns as the Hyperion Energy Center. In the winter both have a predominant prevailing wind out of the northwest and in the summer the predominant wind is from the southeast. Both the seasonal wind directions and velocities are somewhat different in Sioux Falls. At both the Hyperion Energy Center and Sioux City the Missouri River valley channels the wind.

While Hyperion recommended using Sioux City ambient data in its modeling protocol the DENR wanted Sioux Falls. Although both cities had five years of data the DENR selected one of the lower years for Sioux Falls rather than averaging for five years.

Five years of data should have been used for both cities, or very good explanations for ignoring both the location and the power of averaging should have been provided. It was not.

3. Hyperion’s Visibility Analysis is flawed. The National Park Service offered to assist HEC to do the analysis correctly. The current analysis used a horizontal sight line at ground level. If a person looked upward completely different results would be observed. If the proper analysis were utilized it would show visibility impairment as high as 50%, not zero.

4. Key elements required of a PSD were not presented in the permit. There was no plan for dust suppression during construction. There was no flare minimization plan, no Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction plan. The public did not see a BACT analysis for CO2 in time to comment on it. Methane and other greenhouse gas emissions were not quantified in the permit. This refinery will emit more CO2 per refined barrel than any existing refinery in the United States.

5. The Board should have required an Environmental Impact Study before issuing a preconstruction air permit. This would be the largest and most polluting single industrial unit ever constructed in South Dakota. The citizens should have a holistic view of the impact on health and the environment prior to the DENR issuing a preconstruction permit based only on air emissions.

Among the many environmental effects that are not going to be analyzed are the social and economic impacts of the 4,500 construction workers housed in a temporary work camp. Air and water emissions from road, railroad and pipeline construction have not been disclosed. In fact, the pipeline details are completely undisclosed. There will be noise and odors that will be detected but not disclosed prior to their arrival.

The regional impact of construction activities and operation are unknown to the public. Local government can’t plan for law enforcement, energy, sewage, and traffic and health issues when there is no impact analysis. Local government can not begin to plan capital options without a holistic impact study.

If you have questions please contact Jim Heisinger ( or 624-3170) or Dean Spader ( or 624-6831). Thank you for helping to make your own voice heard.


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