May 10, 2011

Ground broken on coal-to-gas plant | Logan Banner

May 10--GILBERT -- A step toward energy independence was taken yesterday as ground was broken on a new coal-to-gas plant in Mingo County.

The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority held a ground-breaking ceremony in Gilbert for the new TransGas Development Systems coal liquefaction plant. Nearly 600 people attended the event, held just down from the Larry Joe Harless Community Center. The actual plant, called Adams Fork Energy, will be built on a post-mine land use site just down the road at Wharncliff near Horsepen Mountain.

Construction is expected to begin in July and the project should be completed and producing gasoline by 2015 and should be in full production by 2016. At its peak production, the plant is projected to convert 7,500 tons per day of regional coal into ultra-clean gasoline.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said the groundbreaking sends a message to the world that America is working toward becoming energy independent.

"This sends a message loud and clear that we are serious about becoming energy independent of the foreign countries that hold us hostage because of their oil," Manchin said. "The bottom line is that we can do it right here with our own natural resources. This is important for West Virginia and for the United States of America to be energy independent. We should not let ourselves be dependent upon foreign countries who don't like us anyway for a product we need to run our country."

Manchin praised the hard work of the Mingo County officials in bringing the coal-to-gas plant to southern West Virginia.

"I can't say enough for Mingo County and the people of southern West Virginia," Manchin said. "(Mingo County Redevelopment Authority Director) Mike Whitt and all the county commissioners have been working so hard to get a coal-to-gas project. They want this type of opportunity in Mingo County.

"We're setting the trend right now. There's nothing like it in the country. The technology we will be using is the first of its kind. 

Manchin said other coal-producing states should look at what is happening in West Virginia and start work on their own coal-to-gas plants.

"This is something that should spread out over the other coal-producing states," Manchin said. "This is something that should be done and, hopefully, we can show them the right thing to do."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said

"There is a lot of excitement here," Tomblin said. "It will take about four years to complete and, during that time, there will be about 3,000 construction jobs going on and when it's complete there will be about 300 full-time jobs at this facility alone plus all the coal mining jobs it will take to supply this plant.

"I think it's one of the first steps to showing energy independence in West Virginia which is great during these times of high gasoline prices. We'll be able to produce a clean, alternative fuel source here, which also helps us reach our energy portfolio goal to have 25 percent of our fuel be an alternative fuel by the year 2025. If this plant works out, we can reproduce it in several places around the state, especially in southern West Virginia."

Mingo County Delegate Harry Keith White said the groundbreaking is big for his home county.

We just came off completing a budget in this last legislative session which was $4 billion and this project, alone, is a $3 billion project in West Virginia and that's three-fourths of our state budget, so people need to realize this is a big deal, not only for Mingo County and southern West Virginia, but also for all of West Virginia," White said.

"When Sen. Manchin was governor, I can remember the day he called me to his office and said to me 'We've got a company that's wanting to put in a coal-to-gas plant and they've looked at two other locations and they're not happy.' I said 'Governor, send them on down to Mingo County. We've got a good redevelopment authority down here and we've got sites I'm sure they will love.' They came down and looked and fell in love with the site and today we're breaking ground."

Mingo Delegate Steve Kominar the coal-to-gas plant will help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

"This changes the whole landscape for not only Mingo County, but also for West Virginia," Kominar said. "This secures our future and protects our freedoms. And we're using clean coal. We're real excited about it."

Whitt said the project will bring in a lot of jobs and people to the local area. He said the impact will be felt in other areas, such as Logan County and in Pike County, Ky., as well as other areas.

"This project will be a region-changer for all of us," Whitt said. "It's too big for Mingo County. It will take care of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. The economic impact, the diversification and the tax base will just be incredible. Three-billion dollars is a lot of zeros. This is really exciting. But, the really exciting times will come when they move dirt, start pouring footers and erecting steel. I anticipate the big construction starting after the first of the year."

Construction is expected to take up to four years and the plant will be built on 150-acres of land that sits off the new section of the four-lane highway being built in Mingo County. Whitt said indirect jobs will be around 1,000.

"In Logan County, they better get everything up because people are going to need places to live while they're here," Whitt said. "That's our next challenge -- where to put everyone. But, we'll find somewhere for them to stay."

Sen. H. Truman Chafin (D-Mingo) said the plant in Mingo County will be a model for other coal-producing states.

"This is the first in the nation and this will be something that will lead the United States of America to energy independence," Chafin said. "In World War II, when the Germans ran out of gasoline, they made it primitively from coal. We have had this technology for 50-60 years, so why aren't we doing this? The Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency needs to be here waving flags. This is what this country needs to do."

Adam Victor, owner and president of TransGas, said he believes the plant will be producing gasoline in about 48 months.

"This will be 92 octane gasoline -- premium-grade gasoline -- and it's going to be put into the gasoline infrastructure in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky," Victor said. "Forty-four of these plants would displace 100 percent of the gasoline consumed in the United States. So, if you build 44 of these plants, you could displace 100 percent of imported gasoline. If you build 100 of these plants, the U.S. could become an exporter of gasoline. We'd actually be turning American coal into dollars to reduce our trade deficits and our national deficits. This is something that solves job problems, solves deficit problems and solves energy problems and it does so without pollution. This is something that people should be rallying behind all throughout the country."

Victor said the plant will use around 2.3 billion tons of coal a year.


By:  Michael Browning