Brooke could be in line for project with China Energy

WHEELING — A natural gas-fired power plant in Brooke County could be one of the initial projects funded by the $83.7 billion that China Energy plans to spend in West Virginia.

While in China Thursday, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher signed a memorandum of understanding with the firm in the presence of President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Thrasher later said some of the first projects that are part of the agreement are the Brooke County plant, along with another natural gas plant in Harrison County, W.Va.

Thrasher said the total investment in these plants will be about $1.3 billion.

Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, said the Brooke County site is near Colliers, although original plans called for it to go at the former Wheeling Corrugating plant at Beech Bottom.

“That plant, itself, is about a $748 million investment,” Ford said.

The website for the Brooke County plant states it will create more than 1,000 jobs during the construction phase, while eventually leading to $440.5 million worth of economic activity per year.

Curtis Wilkerson serves as a spokesman for Energy Solutions Consortium, which is working to develop the natural gas-fired power plants in Brooke County and Harrison County. Each project, upon approval, would result in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment, in addition to hundreds of construction jobs.

“We have been talking with the company in China for some time,” Wilkerson said Thursday, though he declined to further discuss financing of the power plants.

According to Wilkerson, the West Virginia Public Service Commission is considering the certificate to allow the plant, while other environmental permits are in the works. He said the PSC granted permission for the Harrison County plant, but it still needs other certificates.

“These are viable projects because of the vast shale natural gas in West Virginia,” Wilkerson said.

Another potential natural gas-fired power plant, Moundsville Power, remains stalled, although officials with Quantum Utility Generation still list it on their website.

Called for comment, Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis said, “An exciting part of this news is they’re looking to establish a storage hub in this area for natural gas byproducts. We have property that would be suited for that.”

Ford said such a facility would be used to store natural gas-based liquids used to create byproducts used in a variety of products ranging from clothing to appliances.

He said 75 percent of existing petrochemical processing facilities are within 400 miles of the Northern Panhandle, but the American Chemistry Council believes the Ohio Valley could support up to five additional processing plants.

Ford said a West Virginia University study found the development of a storage hub — itself a $10 billion investment — would generate up to $36 billion in the development of petrochemical plants.

Each would require thousands of workers for their construction and hundreds for their operation, he said.

(Staff writer Warren Scott also contributed to this story.)

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