Power plant plan

MOUNDSVILLE – By 2018, private developer Moundsville Power LLC of Buffalo, N.Y., hopes to generate 549 megawatts of electricity by burning Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas in a $615 million plant along the Ohio River.

During the Wednesday Marshall County Commission meeting, officials with Moundsville Power and the Regional Economic Development Partnership discussed the project, in which developers hope to break ground either later this year or in early 2015.

“We have been working on this for a long time,” said Andrew Dorn, managing partner with Moundsville Power. He also said during the meeting the company has filed for air quality permits from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Officials said the project’s construction phase will create 400 to 500 temporary jobs, while about 30 full-time workers will run the proposed plant once it is operational. The company plans to construct the facility on a 37.5-acre parcel along state Route 2 between the Williams Energy fractionation natural gas processing plant and the Moundsville Country Club.

“It is exciting because we now have a local user for the gas that is being produced here,” Don Rigby, RED executive director, said during the meeting.

“We look forward to continuing to work on this,” added Commissioner Don Mason.

According to organizers and Marshall County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel, the county would end up owning the plant under the proposed plan. The company then would lease the facility and land from the county to conduct its business. Frohnapfel said she does not believe the commission will enter such an agreement for at least a few months.

On Tuesday, Mason, along with Commissioners Bob Miller and Brian Schambach, approved a resolution that would allow Moundsville Power to have a payment in lieu of tax agreement, instead of paying regular property taxes. Frohnapfel said the company would make a $4.2 million payment over 30 years.

Information provided by Frohnapfel states, ” … a PILOT is the only way this project can be financially feasible. Power plants are very expensive and capital intensive.”

According to company officials, the proposed natural gas plant will generate 549 megawatts of power. By comparison, the coal-fired American Electric Power Mitchell plant produces about 1,600 megawatts, while AEP’s Kammer plant, which is scheduled to close by June 2015, yields about 630 megawatts, according to AEP.

“Our natural gas producers are supplying energy for America,” Corky Demarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said. “This merchant power plant is manufacturing a product that uses Marcellus shale to create jobs in the Mountain State.”

Officials believe the plant will burn about $105 million worth of natural gas annually, based on current price projections. Planners said facility will be a combined-cycle plant that will use natural gas to run one of its turbines, while using the exhaust heat from this process to drive an additional steam turbine. This means it would make use of what would otherwise be a waste product.

“West Virginia has worked hard to bring new projects like Moundsville Power to our state that utilize abundant shale gas. This is one more project that shows that our state is open to new business opportunities,” West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said.

A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report predicts that by 2040, 35 percent of U.S. electricity generation will come from natural gas, while only 32 percent will come from coal. The remainder will come from nuclear power and renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric. By comparison, 42 percent of U.S. electricity came from coal in 2011, with 25 percent being drawn from natural gas.