POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A major, economic development announcement for the area was made on Monday from a company that wishes to place a coal to liquids facility, a reported first of its kind in the United States, in Mason County, W.Va.
According to a press release from Domestic Synthetic Fuels (DS Fuels), a West Virginia-owned company, it has plans to convert the state’s “abundant coal and natural gas” to gasoline and other fuels, and will soon break ground on a coal to liquids facility in Mason County. The overall project cost, according to DS Fuel, is $1.2 billion, with 130-plus direct jobs, 130-plus new indirect coal jobs, thousands of indirect jobs, an annual payroll of approximately $11.5 million including employee benefits and $300 million annual estimated gross revenue.
The proposed facility will go on 200 acres secured from the Mason County Development Authority in the Mason County Industrial Park. The park is approximately five miles north of Point Pleasant, along W.Va. 62, across from the Mason County Airport and along the Ohio River.
Construction is estimated to begin October 2019 with a project completion date of 2022 or early 2023.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently approved the draft construction permit for the project. Company officials plan a series of community meetings to explain the project and its benefits to the community.
According to the press release on the project released Monday:
“We want to be as transparent as possible in explaining this project to our neighbors,” said Kevin Whited, president of the development company that is building the facility. “We hope the DEP will host a public meeting, so we share information with the public about the exciting opportunities this facility will bring to the region.”
According to Whited, the coal to liquids facility is expected to create 130 full-time jobs, including management, mining and construction, and boost the local, state and regional economy. “We plan to host a series of open houses in the community to help explain the project.
“I’m from West Virginia,” Whited said. “We have West Virginians unemployed, and the coal industry has been decimated. We’re not the solution to revive it, but we’re going to be part of it.”
The direct coal to liquids process to be utilized in Mason County mixes coal with a catalyst and hydrogen derived from natural gas and subjects the mixture to heat and pressure to produce ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, gasoline and other liquids. A similar facility in China has been operating since 2008.
The resulting fuels burn cleaner than those refined from petroleum and are just as effective in vehicles.
Whited said the Mason County facility will differ from previous coal to liquids projects proposed for the state. The technology is more advanced, and the direct method used does not actually burn coal, but subjects it to heat and pressure, making the process much greener.
“This is environmentally sound,” Whited said. “We’re excited to bring a $1.2 billion project to the Mountain State.”
“The facility serves a vital role,” said Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “For decades, we’ve been looking at ways to expand the coal usage, coal development, activities and how we can expand the overall fossil fuel portfolio.
“Any type of domestic homegrown, synthetic fuel particularly manufactured from coal accelerates those objectives,” Hamilton said.
“Domestic Synthetic Fuels is unique for West Virginia and the United States as being a one-of-a-kind facility utilizing two of our biggest natural resources here in West Virginia,” said Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.
“DS Fuels is a good fit in West Virginia because of the natural resources that we have here,” she said. “The two primary ingredients for its manufacturing process, coal and natural gas, are in abundance here. So, it makes us the perfect location for this type of facility.”
Whited said he chose Mason County for the fuel plant because the area has easy barge access and is close to plentiful supplies of coal and natural gas. He said he also wants to bring jobs and economic development to the region.
“We’re looking forward to getting it going,” he said. Funding has been secured for the project, which includes international investors.
“Unlike prior coal to liquids projects proposed in the Mountain State, this is going to happen,” Whited explained. “We have the money, we have the technology and we have the expertise.”
Whited said DS Fuels will bring coal from nearby Kanawha County to feed the coal to liquids facility. The project is expected to create more than 100 mining jobs to supply the facility.
Thousands of construction jobs also will be created, he added.
According to additional information about the project supplied by DS Fuels, the project:
Utilizes locally sourced coal and natural gas to produce fuel and other projects;
Adds hydrogen taken from natural gas to coal under heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst;
Transforms the coal into a liquid that can be refined into “high quality fuels” and other chemicals.
Manufactured products are ultra-low-sulfur diesel, jet fuel and gasoline;
Saleable byproducts are sulfur, ammonia, solid residue;
Natural gas used is estimated at 23 million cubic feet per day, and 2,500 tons of thermal coal estimated for use each day;
Yielding 10,750 barrels (451, 500 gallons) of fuel per day;
Near zero emissions;
High usage of recycled materials.
To learn more about the project, visit www.dsfuels.com.
More on this developing story in upcoming editions.