U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said progress on the proposed coal-to-gas plant in Mingo County is moving along slowly, but the project is still alive.
Manchin gave an update on the TransGas Adams Fork Energy plant set to be built at Wharncliffe near Horsepen Mountain during a stop at the Mingo County Courthouse in Williamson.
"I met with TransGas owner, Adam Victor, again and I have it set up for him to go to Texas to meet with the head of Exxon Mobile. He's trying. He's put millions of his own money up. He's trying to make this thing work. He's doing everything humanly possible," Manchin told a packed Mingo County Commission courtroom.
"We've got him talking to the right people and he's trying to see if he can get Exxon Mobile to use some of their technology to liquefy this and he's trying to get them as an equity partner,” Manchin said.
"I know it's moving slow, but he's the only game that we have in town that would come in without making you or the state take all the risk on the front end. He's putting the money up and taking the risk. He's done his due diligence. We're doing everything we can to assist in getting him to the end,” Manchin said.
Manchin said the project is important not only for the gasoline it will put into the nation's pipelines, but also because of the economical boost it will give southern West Virginia.
"The country needs this. We are too dependent on foreign oil," Manchin said. "I'd rather depend on coal we mine in West Virginia than Saudi Arabia sending me oil and that's the bottom line. The federal government has to step to the plate to help us.”
"This can help not only Mingo County, not only our area, but also the nation. This is a $3 billion project and I don't think we've had a $3 billion project in West Virginia. There's not many in the country of that size. You'll have thousands of people working to build it and you'll have great jobs, plus the ancillary jobs -- if we can make it happen. I'm giving it everything I have,” Manchin said.
Manchin said he isn't giving up on the project and Victor is working every day to find ways to keep it alive.
"We are keeping in contact with Adam and he flew in to West Virginia last week to meet with me and we're setting up meetings all around the country," Manchin said. "He's going all over trying to put this together. He's put his money up front and he's the first gentleman who has come to the state and didn't ask the state to take all the risk. Everyone else says they want to do all these great things, but they want us to put all the money up. He's doing everything on his own up front. I still have hope for the project and we're doing all we can to assist him to make sure he has a chance."
The Mingo County Redevelopment Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony in Gilbert for the new TransGas Development Systems coal liquefaction plant earlier this year. 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.
During that groundbreaking, officials said 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.
Manchin praised the hard work of the Mingo County officials in bringing the coal-to-gas plant to southern West Virginia.
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."
During construction, there will be about 3,000 construction jobs available. When the coal-to-gas plant is operational, there will be about 300 full-time jobs at the facility.
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, U.S. Route 73, which is currently being built in Mingo County. Officials project there will be indirect jobs as a result of the coal-to-gas plant.
Victor 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 would use around 2.3 billion tons of coal a year.