Mingo Project

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In December 2006, Los Angeles-based Rentech Inc. signed an agreement with the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority to study the possibility of a 10,000 to 30,000 barrel-per-day synthetic diesel plant, using the Fischer-Tropsch process, with wood and coal as feedstocks.[1] The project is known as the Mingo Project.

In September 2007, Rentech spokesman Tom Sayles told the media that the project would require federal support in order to overcome reluctance among potential financiers, whose concern was that if the price of oil were to fall precipitously, the project would not longer be economical.[2] In its September 2007 10-K statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rentech stated that it had successfully completed the scoping study but that the viability of the Mingo County project "will depend on several different factors, including without limitation, the results of feasibility studies, regional and governmental support, greenhouse gas legislation, financing sources and potential partners."[3]

In December 2007, disclosure forms revealed that Rentech had hired the lobbying firm of Brownstein Hyatt & Farber to lobby the federal government.[4] That month, Rentech also announced that it had appointed former U.S. Air Force Under Secretary Ron Sega to its board of directors. Sega headed the Air Force's energy strategy and flew on the first Air Force jet powered by synthetic fuels in September 2006.[5]

December 2008 update: The proposed coal-to-liquids plant could receive at least $600 million in tax breaks under West Virginia's existing economic development incentives programs. The plant is eligible to receive tax credits worth 20 percent of its $3 billion capital investment.

The plant's sponsors plan to capture carbon dioxide emissions, but have no plans for storing them. Adam Victor, president of TransGas Development Systems, said his firm is hoping to receive permission from the federal government to send CO2 via interstate pipelines to Texas, where it could be sequestered.[6]

Despite difficulties finding financing, Victor insited that the Mingo plant would be economically viable even with lower oil prices. He said that while other projects rely on selling debt to investors, TransGas plans to sell stocks to investors in London to finance the plant.[7]

October 2009 update: On October 27, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced it had made a preliminary decision to approve the air permit for the Mingo project, saying "it will meet all state and federal air quality requirements." The DEP said it would accept comments on the decision until November 30.[8]

December 2010 update: According to the Sierra Club, no application for the plant has actually been filed, and the project appears to have been abandoned.[9]

May 2011 update: TransGas held a "groundbreaking ceremony" in Mingo County on May 9 for the $4 billion coal-to-gasoline plant, saying the plant will covert 7,500 tons of coal a day into 756,000 gallons of gasoline -- about a third of the amount of gas used in West Virginia each day. TransGas plans to start construction in July 2011 and complete the project within four years. TransGas plans to sell taxable bonds to fund the Mingo County project, and repay the bonds with revenue generated by the plant. In April 2011, the West Virginia Economic Development Authority passed a resolution expressing its willingness to authorize $3 billion in revenue bonds for the TransGas project. If it were built, the project would be eligible for at least $600 million in state tax breaks, according records obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Act.[10]

TransGas has yet to revise its air pollution permit in the wake of a Sierra Club appeal to the state Air Quality Board. The board ruled that DEP didn't have enough evidence to support its conclusion that the plant's pollution controls were sufficient enough to warrant its designation as a "minor source" of emissions. The permit was sent back to DEP's Office of Air Quality for revisions. In fall 2011, construction unions stopped questioning TransGas' project, after the company agreed to use local workers to build the plant and to buy coal from area mines.[10]

Most scientists, energy experts and environmentalists say that without carbon-dioxide controls, coal-to-liquids plant will emit twice the greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline. In 2008, TransGas said the plant would be a "near-zero emissions facility" that would capture carbon dioxide. Later, TransGas said the company would seek federal approval to send carbon dioxide through interstate pipelines to the Texas coast, where it could be pumped underground for enhanced oil recovery. Those plans were not part of the project's design that the state Department of Environmental Protection approved in 2010; DEP officials said state regulators couldn't mandate limits on the TransGas facility's emissions.[10]

Project Details

Sponsor: Rentech Inc., TransGas Development Systems LLC
Location: Mingo County, West Virginia
Capacity: 20,000 barrels per day of synthetic diesel
Type: coal-to-liquid
Projected in service: 2012
Status: abandoned

Financing

Citizen Groups

Resources

References

  1. "Rentech Enters a Joint Development Agreement with Mingo County West Virginia Redevelopment Authority for Clean Fuels Project" Rentech Inc. press release, December 7, 2007. (PDF)
  2. Pam Kasey, "Financing Questions Pose Problems for Coal-to-Liquids Projects," The State Journal, September 6, 2007.
  3. Form 10-K, Rentech Inc., September 30, 2007.
  4. "Rentech Hires Lobbying Firm," Associated Press, January 2, 2008.
  5. "Rentech Announces Appointment of Former U.S. Air Force Under Secretary Ron Sega to Its Board of Directors," Business Wire, December 18, 2007.
  6. "Coal plant could get $600 million," Charleston Gazette, December 14, 2008.
  7. George Hohmann, "http://dailymail.com/Business/200901010105," Charleston Daily Mail, January 1, 2008.
  8. "W.Va. intends to issue coal-to-gas plant permit," Associated Press, October 27, 2009.
  9. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2011. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ken Ward Jr. and Eric Eyre, "Mingo coal-to-gas plant breaks ground" Charleston Gazette, May 9, 2011.

Related SourceWatch Articles

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External links

  • "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2007. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)