Storage tanks getting upgrade prior to winter

By Lucas Lord

For nearly 100 years BP storage tanks have dominated the skyline just east of Freeman. The 18 tanks have played a critical role in transporting crude oil from fields in Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming to refineries in the north.

With recent news about cutbacks of American oil, the appearance of construction crews on the site have led to speculation the oil company might be demolishing or downsizing the facility.

But the speculation is incorrect as the around-the-clock work is to implement several minor renovations ahead of the winter season to handle seasonal flooding from the South Grand River and road access issues.

“A lot of the work we do nowadays is routine and seasonal maintenance for the handful of tanks that are still in use. There aren’t any plans to remove the ones not in service since our hope is that someday they will be needed again,” said general manager, Fred Williamson.

“The work we are doing right now is just to improve the services we already provide and one of the big obstacles to our plant is flooding from the South Grand River which makes accessing the grounds and some of the facilities difficult, if not impossible to reach at times.”

Flooding from the South Grand River in 2017 threatened the integrity of several tanks and the facility at large and has since remained a concern and an ongoing hazard to cross. Construction efforts are focused on digging a 30-inch hole and running a drainpipe 1,500 feet away at the crossing. Williamson hopes to make accessing the plant easier for industrial trucks carrying equipment or refueling and other vendors who use the facility.

“We’ve really needed a better way of dealing with the river for a while now so this crossing should really help,” Williamson said. “When this facility was built, Freeman really existed as a commercial hub for travelers and we supplied a number of refineries in the area but now we only supply one.

“With the expansion of crude oil in recent years, well, if they built Freeman today, we wouldn’t be here.”

Williamson said the construction project should be completed soon.