GREEN RIVER, Emery County — State environmental regulators have signaled their intent to approve proposed changes to the operation of a planned refinery outside of Green River.
That step kick-starts another public review process and comment period which runs through April 23 for Emery Refining — which is poised to open one the nation's first refineries in nearly 40 years.
The $230 million refinery and rail facility is a project of Houston-based Rock River Resources and is widely seen as a way to provide another processing and transportation corridor for crude oil produced in Utah and the rest of the region.
The operation is not large — total volume is 28,000 barrels per day — but it will also provide Uintah Basin producers with more refinery options for the viscous black or yellow wax crude that pose unique travel and processing challenges.
Operational changes proposed by Rock River include:
A modular style design rather than "built in place"
A product mix change, including the elimination of asphalt
Fewer, but larger storage tanks
Truck and rail loading operations will use refinery storage systems and a thermal oxidizer to collect and control emissions
Opponents of the refinery launched a legal appeal of the state action in 2013 granting the permit, which is in limbo given these modifications that have been submitted.
Taylor McKinnon, director of energy with Grand Canyon Trust, said the groups are just beginning to put the magnifying glass to the fine print of the proposed changes and what that may mean for any challenge.
The prospect of a refinery in the region — however construed — remains widely opposed, he added.
"Certainly it would industrialize Green River," he said. "There would be air pollution impacts and it would enable more fossil fuel development. A particular concern of ours is that it would enable high carbon fossil fuel development such as oil shale and tar sands and is a step along the way to strip mining for those resources. It is not something we want to see."
The environmental groups successfully delayed the groundbreaking of the project last year pending resolution of the permit issues, but Red Rock's website says it intends to be operational in late 2014.