Manchin Wants Conversion Plant for West Virginia


Gov. Joe Manchin

  WV Governor Joe Manchin laid out a comprehensive plan to implement coal conversion technology on a state level, harnessing West Virginia's coal resources to address once and for all the vulnerability of America's refining capacity and the nation's dependency upon foreign sources of oil. 
    The West Virginia Coal Conversion Initiative is a comprehensive plan that will encompass public/private development of liquefaction and other coal conversion facilities and infrastructure in West Virginia. These facilities will convert coal into liquid fuels and other products for commercial and non-commercial uses.
    Unlike coal conversion projects that been proposed elsewhere, the West Virginia Coal Conversion Initiative will focus on the development of state-of-the-art, multi-product facilities that would adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace and produce whatever product is most needed at a specific time - be it natural gas, diesel fuel, jet fuel, hydrogen, or chemicals. 
    "West Virginia is one of several states that are rich in natural resources, and it is time that we stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for doing our part to address the nation's growing energy crisis," the governor said. 
    Paving the way for establishment of this initiative, Governor Manchin is taking several steps to formulate this comprehensive approach to coal conversion development, including: 
-- Using the re-established West Virginia Public Energy Authority, in a collaborative effort with researchers, scientists and energy leaders, to create the overall plan for the implementation of this type of coal conversion facility.
-- Directing the West Virginia Development Office to assist with identification of potential site locations, infrastructure requirements and private sector partners and to assist with siting, permitting, and construction of such projects;

-- Directing the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to work with the Public Energy Authority and potential investors to facilitate a plan for permitting and construction of such projects; and,
-- Requesting the West Virginia Public Service Commission to facilitate certification of any necessary utility infrastructure and to work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and transmission operators to facilitate interconnection to the energy grid.
    In addition, West Virginia's colleges, universities and technical schools will play an integral role in fulfilling a significant educational component of this plan, training workers for mining, transportation, construction and operations jobs that will be created with coal conversion projects across the state.
    "As West Virginia's Governor and as the chairman-elect of the Southern States Energy Board and chairman of the National Governor's Association's Natural Resources committee, I feel it is important for West Virginia to be at the forefront of what I believe will soon be a coordinated national energy effort," the governor said. 
    Governor Manchin has directed many of the state's key decision makers to take leadership roles in this effort, including: Department of Commerce Secretary Tom Bulla; Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Stephanie Timmermyer; the West Virginia Public Service Commission; the West Virginia Public Energy Authority; West Virginia University Institute of Technology President Charles Bayless and other college and university presidents across the state; Pat Esposito, the Governor's liaison to the Southern States Energy Board; and, the leadership of the West Virginia Coal Association, United Mine Workers of America and our entire skilled labor force.
    "We are committing today to a complete coal conversion plant package, comprised of property, a permitting plan, identified and ready fuel supplies, and a knowledgeable and trained work force," the governor added. "These efforts, along with those of other states, will ensure West Virginia's energy independence well into the future. With any estimated 50 billion tons of coal reserves in West Virginia that could make up to 3 barrels of liquid fuel per ton, it just makes common sense for our state to take the lead in advancing our efforts to the next level."  cl


Support for Conversion Plant



Kenneth Nemeth

    Kenneth Nemeth, Executive Director of Southern States Energy Board said this is an opportunity for West Virginia to utilize their coal and help America become energy independent. 

    "A similar plant run by Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tennessee already produces chemicals from coal," said Nemeth.

    The West Virginia plant also would have the ability to trap carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere, Nemeth said.
    The federal government has poured billions into such projects since the 1970s, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office.
    Despite a few successes, many clean-coal projects "experienced problems and difficulties in meeting cost, schedule and performance," the GAO said in a 2000 report.
    Nemeth said things are different now. Energy prices are soaring and technologies have improved, making such plants more feasible.
    Dr. Patrick Esposito, Sr., Governor Manchin's Alternate and member Energy Task Force said the plant would be a public-private partnership.
    Manchin appointed Esposito to help lead the initiative.
    Some funding could come from the U.S. Department of Energy, whose "FutureGen" project seeks to build a zero-emissions power plant somewhere in the U.S.

   The state Public Energy Authority could sell bonds to lend money to the

  project, Esposito said, and private investors also will be involved.
    In Washington, Senator Robert C. Byrd, (D-WV), applauded Manchin's proposal, saying, "A perfect storm has been brewing regarding our nation's continued lack of a comprehensive energy policy. Gov. Manchin and I know that it is time to utilize West Virginia's rich human and natural resources.
    "We should be exploring new ways to use our vast coal resources as well as recognizing the exciting opportunities to develop our renewable resources like hydroelectric, wind, solar, and biomass energy."
    Byrd said the coal industry can provide "a compass point for a serious energy strategy and West Virginia can set that course. cl

Pat Esposito

Robert C. Byrd


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