POINT PLEASANT — Ground will be broken this year for a new $1.2 billion coal-to-liquids-fuel facility in Mason County, according to the development company planning to build it.
Domestic Synthetic Fuels, a West Virginia-owned company, said in a news release that it will convert the state’s coal and natural gas to gasoline and other fuels. It will be the first of its kind in the United States, the company said.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection recently approved the draft construction permit for the project. Company officials said they plan a series of community open house meetings to explain the project and its benefits to the community.
“We want to be as transparent as possible in explaining this project to our neighbors,” Kevin Whited, the lead developer for DS Fuels.
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. He said DS Fuels will bring coal from nearby Kanawha County to feed the facility. The project is expected to create more than 100 mining jobs to supply the facility. Thousands of temporary construction jobs also will be created, Whited added.
“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.”
Whited said the Mason County facility will differ from previous coal-to-liquids projects proposed for the state.
“This is environmentally sound,” Whited said. “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.”
Whited said 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. The resulting fuels burn cleaner than those refined from petroleum and are just as effective in vehicles.
“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.”
“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 supplies of coal and natural gas.
The 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.
Whited said funding has been secured for the project, including some international investors.
“Unlike prior coal-to-liquids projects proposed in the Mountain State, this is going to happen,” Whited said. “We have the money, we have the technology and we have the expertise.”
Construction is estimated to begin October 2019 with a project completion date of 2022 or early 2023. The facility is expected to use about 2,500 tons of thermal coal and about 23 million cubic feet of natural gas each day to produce 10,750 barrels of fuel, which is more than 450,000 gallons, according to the company’s website.
To learn more about the project, visit www.dsfuels.com.