CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia environmental officials have issued a construction permit for a state-of-the-art coal to liquids facility to be built near Point Pleasant in Mason County.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued the permit for Domestic Synthetic Fuels following a public comment period and public meetings on the project, which will turn West Virginia coal and natural gas into ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, aviation fuel, gasoline and other value-added products.
“I’d like to thank not just the DEP, but the community for coming out and supporting this project,” said Kevin Whited, Domestic Synthetic Fuels lead developer. “They live here. They turned out, and a lot of them spoke in favor of the facility.”
The Domestic Synthetic Fuels facility will create 130 direct jobs on site, plus 130 new coal mining jobs to supply the facility with raw materials. Thousands of construction workers will be needed to build the facility, and local officials expect Domestic Synthetic Fuels to boost the local and regional economies and help create spinoff jobs in the area.
“This will have a tremendous economic impact on our county,” said John Musgrave, executive director of the Mason County Economic Development Authority. “This will bring jobs and growth to Mason County and the surrounding region.”
DEP officials approved the Domestic Synthetic Fuels facility as a minor source of emissions, meaning emissions from the facility are minimal under federal and state law. Synthetic fuels derived from coal are cleaner and more ecologically friendly than fuels derived from petroleum.
Once up and running, Domestic Synthetic Fuels will take 2,500 tons of coal a day, combine it under heat and pressure with a catalyst and hydrogen derived from natural gas to produce more than 10,000 barrels of fuel a day. The self-contained process also will produce other value-added products that can be sold.
Whited said he started Domestic Synthetic Fuels to help revive the Mountain State’s flagging coal industry.
“You can look around and see the decimation that’s gone on in the coal industry,” Whited said. “We can’t go back and change the past, but we can make the future better.
“This permit really solidifies the birth of this project, to create a new path forward for West Virginia,” Whited said.
Just as important as coal, however, is the project’s potential for the state’s natural gas industry.
“If you’re baking a cake, you need certain ingredients,” Whited said. “You need flour. You need yeast. But one is not more important than the other. You can’t leave one out.
“Natural gas is an essential ingredient,” Whited said.
According to a press release from Domestic Synthetic Fuels, the facility will use the cleanest, most efficient technology available, and has been proven in similar facilities overseas.
Chris Hamilton, chairman of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council, has seen identical technology being used to turn coal into fuels in China. “It’s truly state-of-the-art,” he said. “To be able to turn coal into fuel here in West Virginia can go a long way towards establishing U.S. energy independence and expanding our state’s reliance on instate coal supplies.”
Whited said the permit allows work on Domestic Synthetic Fuels to begin in earnest. He expects to break ground on the project this fall, begin taking applications for jobs at the facility early in 2020 and start hiring during the second quarter of 2020.
“Expect the best from West Virginia,” Whited said.