POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The Mason County Development Authority hosted a dinner this week to welcome the team from Domestic Synthetic Fuels (DS Fuels), a company looking to place a $1.2 billion coal-to-liquids plant north of Point Pleasant.
Development Authority Director John Musgrave, who has been working on locating the project in the county, organized the dinner with around 50 people in attendance, including members of the local business community and elected officials, among others.
Musgrave told those gathered, he wanted to begin by introducing Kevin Whited, the lead developer, for DS Fuels. He said he and Whited had been working together for over two years on the project and during that time, Whited had delivered on “everything he said he would.”
Musgrave asked Whited to introduce himself and those visitors who accompanied him. According to biographies provided to Ohio Valley Publishing by DS Fuels:
Whited, CEO of America Leading, DS Fuel’s development company, is a longtime entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in business development and implementation of solid management principles. Prior to establishing America First, he was National Sales Director for a small, publicly traded company that sold electronic modules to allow vehicles to run with gasoline, ethanol or any mixture of the two.
Also attending the dinner with Whited, Daniel Lee, H.D. Kwon, Ahmad Fatemizadeh, Sean Lee and Bob Hypes.
Daniel Lee, investor, is currently president of GNR Corporation, the Korea Energy Exploration & Production Company and the Suntree Energy Company, he has extensive experience servicing and consulting global oil and gas projects. A mining engineer by trade, Daniel obtained a petroleum and mineral engineering degree in 1996 from Seoul National University and has since worked in numerous executive management positions for companies that include the Daewoo Corporation and Energy Holdings Group.
Kwon, also an investor, currently serves as managing director for Native Son Companies, specializing in project development for energy infrastructure, financing and equity for refineries, and petrochemical and mid-stream projects. With forty years experience in business development for international energy infrastructure projects, Kwon brings with him valuable geographical expertise that spans the Asian, Middle Eastern and North/South American markets.
Fatemizadeh, is the vice president of Process Licensing and Technology at HTI Americas. In his role, he’s responsible for promoting and establishing relationships between his clients and EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) contractors. A graduate of Texas A&M University, he has a BS degree in Chemical Engineering and a master’s degree in Natural Gas Engineering.
Sean Lee currently serves as a representative for Daelim Group’s business interests in North America, with a primary focus in business development activities for EPC projects and petrochemical industry capital investments in the United States. A graduate of State University of New York at Binghamton, Sean has a BS in Management, with a dual concentration in management information systems and global management.
Hypes, who is from West Virginia, is heading up the coal operation for DS Fuels with over 30 years of experience in the industry.
Whited told those gathered at the dinner about the journey to develop an enterprise meant to be a standalone, for profit business not dependent on government subsidies. He said talks with various investors began last year as the foundation for the project was being placed, followed by meetings with “a host of government officials,” and whom he described as “White House advocates” he met with in West Virginia.
“This is not a new technology,” Whited said about the proposed plant. “It (the technology) was actually crafted in Catlettsburg, Ky.”
Whited spoke about investments by the Department of Energy and other private companies in the technology in the 1970’s during the oil embargoes and gasoline shortages.
“…But then the oil embargo was over…sometimes timing is everything…but it was a good technology,” Whited said, adding it is currently in use in China. “We know it’s dependable, its been working there since 2008.”
Whited said the plant, which will utilize coal to produce various fuels, can use a variety of types of coal. Using different types of coal only affects the yield, not the ability to operate the technology, he explained.
“With this technology, it is much cleaner…we don’t discharge any water, all of our water is recycled,” Whited added about the plant proposed to sit along the Ohio River. “…We don’t create coal ash, we don’t discharge polluted water… We do and will draw some water out of the river for the initial filling of the cold water tank and after that, it will be replenished by the potable water because it takes a very small percentage of it to replenish on a weekly basis.”
Whited also said the only items from the plant which will go to a landfill are those normally produced by human beings, like paper, food product containers, etc.
The manufactured products from the plant are ultra-low-sulfur diesel, jet fuel and gasoline. The plant will also produce byproducts, which Whited called “value added products” and those include a commercial grade sulfur that can be resold, as well as refrigerant grade ammonia and a flake residue often used by coal-fired power plants and concrete companies.
In wrapping up his comments, Whited said, “We do thank the people from South Korea for their long trips and journeys, and especially for the investment they want to invest in this community and you know why? Because they want to help us create jobs…”
Musgrave then asked members of the community to introduce themselves to let those from DS Fuels know “we want you as our neighbors.”
Leading off the comments was Mario Liberatore from Ohio Valley Bank who is also chairman of the Development Authority and President of the Mason County Chamber of Commerce. Other local organizations and businesses represented were Main Street Point Pleasant, Pleasant Valley Hospital, Farmers Bank, ICL-IP America, APG Polytech, John Sang Ford, Blaine Surveying, the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center, American Electric Power, Dennis Brumfield CPA and the Coffee Grinder.
Elected officials in attendance giving welcoming remarks were Chief of Staff to Gov. Jim Justice Mike Hall, State Senator Eric Tarr, Delegates Jim Butler and Scott Cadle, County Commissioners Rick Handley and Tracy Doolittle, County Assessor Ron Hickman, Mayor of Point Pleasant Brian Billings, City Councilman Gabe Roush.
There were also representatives for Congresswoman Carol Miller, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, as well as a representative from the West Virginia Development Office, the latter of which stated they had been working on the project for two years.
Following introductions, was a question and answer period. Scott Brewer, former delegate and member of the Development Authority who also represents the building trades, asked about the construction time frame. Whited said he was hopeful ground could be broken in October, with construction about a year or more away, but that time frame was still to be determined.
Cadle asked about the coal reserves for the plant, with Hypes saying the majority of those reserves would come from Kanawha County.
“We have enough permitted reserves to carry the project for 10 years,” Hypes said.
Cadle asked if there was a possibility “down the road” to look at retrieving coal from Mason County, with DS Fuels representatives affirming that was a possibility.
“This is a long-term investment,” Whited said, explaining the project has literal room to grow on the acreage of the Mason County Industrial Park, with other products that can be made from coal in the future using a variety of technologies.
As reported, the West Virginia Environmental Protection Agency has issued a draft, not a final permit, of the Air Quality Permit. The public comment period on that permit is now open. Written comments or requests for a public meeting must be received by the WVEPA’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) before 5 p.m., July 18, 2019. A public meeting may be held if the Director of DAQ determines that significant public interest has been expressed in writing, or when the Director deems it appropriate. Comments can be mailed to the DAQ at 601 57th Street, SE, Charleston, WV, 25304.
Whited stressed it is his hope a meeting is called for the project by the DEP to reach more in the community and spread information about the project. Whited expressed to Ohio Valley Publishing, DS Fuels wanted to be “transparent” about the project and was considering more ways to get that information out to many more people beyond those at the dinner this week and connect with the public.
Whited and representatives from DS Fuels were in the governor’s office in Charleston on Wednesday, as indicated by Chief of Staff Hall at the dinner.
“We had an excellent meeting with government officials,” Whited said later in a statement about the meeting. “They were excited to hear about the progress of the project and to meet our investors, the representative of the engineering, procurement and construction company, as well as the technology licensure.”
As reported, if the permit is approved, the plant, the first of its kind in the United States, is said to provide 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.
This week’s dinner was catered by the First Church of God’s Kitchen Ministry.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.