In a windowless room inside of a non-descript steel building at Dakota Prairie Refining’s sprawling facility west of Dickinson, there are six people whose job is to make certain America’s first greenfield refinery built since 1976 turns Bakken crude oil into diesel fuel.
“It’s a chem nerd’s dream,” laboratory technician and chemist Nicole Haller said of the lab where she works on the 375-acre refinery site.
The small lab crew — led by supervisor Holly Dalen of Dickinson — has some of the most important jobs at the refinery, which is in the final stages of testing before ramping up operations.
They already spend each day testing crude oil, diesel fuel and its sulphur levels, as well as other products to be produced by the refinery. They also run constant tests on city wastewater to be used in the refining process.
The lab crew act as the refinery’s gatekeepers. If a product goes in or comes out of the refinery, the lab has its eyes and instruments on it.