October 15, 2011-by John Blair, valley watch.net editor
Once touted as the economic savior of the little town of Wellsville, Ohio as early as 2006, Baard Energy was issued an air pollution and construction permit in the Fall of 2008 to build a 50,000 barrel per day coal to diesel fuel facility by the Ohio EPA.
Baard Energy claimed the plant at that time would cost $4-5.5 billion and be financed by a combination of “debt and equity” according to the proposed plant’s management team. However, it was pointed out by Valley Watch and others at the time that Baard has way to small an organization to acquire such debt since it was a company with less than a dozen employees.
On Friday, it was official disclosed that a settlement had been reached that requires Baard to use another feedstock besides coal if it wants to go forth in the future.
“Coal to liquids technology has always been dirty and expensive—and today’s announcement makes it clear that it remains a bad bet,” said NRDC senior attorney Shannon Fisk. “Four years into this mess, the Baard facility has not been able to sort out its pollution permits or financing because making liquid fuel out of coal simply doesn’t work economically or environmentally. The public subsidies its developers sought shouldn’t pay for pollution. We have better choices.”
The Baard proposal was similar to proposals to convert coal to gas in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois on the front end. First the coal would be gasified, like those proposed in the tri-state in but then the syngas would be sent to a “Fischer Tropsch” reactor which would then convert the syngas to either diesel fuel or aviation fuel.
Although the whole process is a “proven” technology, meaning that you can actually get liquids fuels from processed coal, it is also proved that the process is extremely dirty and actually creates at least 50% greater carbon dioxide than it would if the coal were consumed in a power plant since it creates CO2 both during the manufacture of the fuels and also when they are burned.
Presently, Indiana has three proposed gasifiers, one under construction at Edwardsport that will produce electricity for Duke Energy, one in Rockport that is supposed to produce pipeline quality gas (at a cost far greater than the price of natural gas), and a just announced coal to liquids plant at the former Newport (IN) Army base where tons of nerve gas was starred until it was incinerated earlier this decade.
In Kentucky, there are also numerous proposals for both coal to liquids and coal to gas but three in western Kentucky have already received construction permits. One just across the river from Newburgh, IN called Cash Creek, one in Muhlenberg County called Kentucky New Gas, and one that won recent permit approval in McCracken County near Paducah.
In Illinois, there are also numerous proposals, with Power Holdings in Mt. Vernon, Leucadia in Chicago, and a plant similar to Cash Creek in Taylorville. Of course, Illinois is also home to the Federally subsidized “FutureGen” plant that has had troubled time with cost containment since it was first announced in 2001, in the early days of the Bush Admininstration.
SynFuels as they are called are generally opposed by environmentalists as well as right wing economists such as those at the free market purist think tank called the Cato Institute. See: It’s A Syn on their website.
Valley Watch is committed to opposing these dubious and unnecessary plants as they are proposed in our region and will fight to protect the public health and environment from these polluters.