Entrepreneur and developer Kevin Whited had an idea. What if you could take two of West Virginia’s most abundant natural resources, put them together and create valuable products that would not only bring jobs to the Mountain State, but also lead to greater energy independence and a greener form of energy?
“I’m from West Virginia,” said Whited, 67. “We have West Virginians unemployed, and the coal industry has been decimated. We’re not the solution to revive it, but we’re going to be part of it.”
Domestic Synthetic Fuels, a coal to liquids facility to be built near Point Pleasant in Mason County, West Virginia, will realize Whited’s dream. The facility will take West Virginia-sourced coal, combine it with hydrogen from locally-produced natural gas and create synthetic diesel fuel, gasoline and other products we all use every day. These fuels burn cleaner than petroleum-based fuels and are just as effective.
The technology to turn coal into fuel has been known for about 100 years, but the latest technological advancements make the process cleaner and more efficient than ever. Whited says the Mason County facility will generate very few emissions, and most of the materials used in the process will be recycled within the plant.
The plant will employ 130 or more people in the plant itself, about another 130 to mine the coal used in the facility, put thousands of people to work during construction, and is expected to lead to downstream opportunities.
Local officials and leaders of West Virginia’s coal, natural gas and manufacturing industries are excited about the new plant.
“This will have a tremendous economic impact on the county, not only jobs but in the social fabric of the community,” said John Musgrave of the Mason County Economic Development Authority. “We’ve had our young people leaving, not only here, but in the state. It’d be a great thing to bring those folks back into the community, create jobs and opportunity, but more important, we need to have the job skills to go with it.”
“For decades, we've been looking at ways to expand the coal usage, coal development, activities, how we can expand the overall fossil fuel portfolio,” said Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “Any type of domestic homegrown, synthetic fuel particularly, manufacture from coal accelerates those objectives.”
“West Virginia is a state that produces about 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year,” said Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia. “The key to our success is to find downstream uses in manufacturing and chemical producing companies. Domestic Synthetic Fuels is one of those.”