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Mid-Ohio Valley Foundations – Industry: Pleasants Power continues transformation

2/23/2024

Pleasants County – California-based Omnis Fuel Technologies signed a purchasing agreement in July of last year with Texas-based Energy Transition and Environmental Management (ETEM), the owners of Pleasants Power in St. Marys.

“OMNIS continues to push forward diligently with their conversion plan to utilize hydrogen to run the power plant,” Pleasants County Commission President Jay Powell said recently. “OMNIS executives, along with the plant employees, are working around the clock to have a pilot project completed later this spring that will provide a small amount of hydrogen running into the plant as a sample rendition. Simultaneously, they are acquiring adjacent properties and working on the large-scale conversion of the plant to hydrogen which is a gigantic undertaking that they are methodically working through each step of the process.”

At the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 86th Annual Meeting and Business Summit in September, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced the plant was again producing electricity on the wholesale regional market.

“For the first time, maybe the first time in this country, the Pleasants Power Plant, a coal-fired power plant, is taking new life and it’s taking new life right in front of our eyes,” Justice told those in attendance.

The 1,278-megawatt plant will eventually be retrofitted to generate electricity with hydrogen, a byproduct of a nearby graphite production facility Omnis is developing with the goal being to produce power with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The project represents an $800 million investment in the state.

Until the transition can be completed, which is estimated to take between 12 and 24 months, it will burn coal, selling the electricity generated to PJM Interconnection, the regional energy transmission cooperative serving 13 states and Washington, D.C.

“Really and truly all people all across the board have really worked really hard to make this become a reality and everything,” Justice said at the chamber meeting. “That’s 150 jobs, and that’s an $800 million potential investment. As we move to show the world all the goodness that we can maybe do with hydrogen, coal and whatever it may be … we’re on the move.”

The plant, which was the site of the Willow Island disaster in 1978, was completed in 1980 at a cost of $677 million. It was first slated to be shut down in 2018, but deactivation was delayed to 2022. That deactivation deadline was put on hold again in 2019 thanks to a tax break approved by the West Virginia Legislature.

Energy Harbor (formerly FirstEnergy Solutions) was leasing the plant from ETEM and was producing power up to the end of May 2023 and maintaining the plant through the end of June.

FirstEnergy subsidiaries MonPower and Potomac Edison were also exploring the possibility of buying the plant, proposing a plan to lease the plant for 12 months from ETEM while it considered shutting down another plant to buy Pleasants Power.

“In Pleasants County we continue to be thankful to the Good Lord above each day we see the operations continuing, and as we see the expansion projects occurring it becomes more and more real how big of a blessing thus far our county is experiencing,” Powell said. “We continue to work hard and pray harder that the conversion process continues at the rapid pace OMNIS has set forth, as it is certainly exciting to think of the stability this brings to the plant and the additional revolutionary opportunities it provides to the county, the Mid-Ohio Valley, the state of West Virginia and the entire country for that matter.”

 

Story by Douglass Huxley, News & Sentinel

Steven Allen Adams contributed to this story.

 

 

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