PIKEVILLE, Ky. (July 10, 2013) – It isn’t often two private jets land together at the Pikeville-Pike County Airport, but it happened last week on Tuesday, July 2, when executives from New York-based TransGas, Houston-based ACS Industrial Services and Evansville, Ind.-based Skanska arrived to update community leaders about ongoing plans to build two coal gasification plants in Pike County.
The working dinner was held in a private dining room at the Blue Raven, and was hosted by Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford and his wife, Pat, Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn and Pike County Energy and Community Development Director Charles Carlton. TransGas CEO Adam Victor, TransGas Executive Coordinator Yevginiya Khatskevich and project manager Dr. Randall Harris had their team members give Pike County leadership a complete update about the projects over the course of the working dinner.
“TransGas and Pike County hold an air permit and construction permit for the locations for each plant, one near the airport and extending into Floyd County and another plant on Peter Creek,” Victor said. “The footprint will be 150 acres and the financial package is being worked on to fund three different plants, two in Pike County and one off U.S. 52 northeast of Gilbert in Mingo County, W.V. Clean coal technology is in place.”
Victor said he has never worked with a government that has been more responsive than Judge Rutherford and his staff.
“Their knowledge of energy and the relationships they have forged with those in America’s energy industry is exceptional,” he said. “Charles Carlton is great to work with, and Frankfort is on board. Gov. Beshear and energy secretary Dr. Len Peters have been very cooperative. Their goals are the same as ours.”
Each coal gasification plant will employ 3,000 construction workers, and each plant will use around 3 million tons of local coal per year to produce transportation fuel. Twenty years worth of coal reserves have been committed to these projects. Harris met with coal companies that control large amounts of coal in the eastern Kentucky coalfield and was able to secure the reserves.
Sen. Jones sees the overall benefit of such projects becoming a reality.
“We have coal miners from all these Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia counties working across the borders,” he said. “We have truck drivers who will need to haul the coal to all three plants and people to build then work at the plants. When I look at the possibility of these plants opening up, I, just as others, see jobs and a local economy that will recover in a big way.”
Victor then introduced the visiting delegation, Fernando Sierra Carbonell from ACS in Madrid, Spain, Carlos Visser from ACS’s Houston office, and Alan Braun and Denny Quinn of industrial contractors Skanska in Evansville, Ind. The aforementioned all worked together to get the required permits approved for this project. Skanska is currently constructing the $1 billion Duke Energy power plant in Edwardsport, Ind.
“Forty hours ago, I was at my desk in Madrid,” Carbonell, who is in charge of business development at ACS, the largest construction firm in the world with 94,000 employees, said. “Now here I am in beautiful Kentucky.”
Visser, CEO of ACS North America, updated those at the working dinner meeting about his company and what it does.
“ACS does business in 55 countries worldwide,” Visser said. “In America we have constructed ports, bridges, interstates and other multimillion-dollar projects. We are aware of the world’s increasing need for transportation fuel, and we were looking for a way to break into the energy business in America. We feel now is that time and central Appalachia is the place.”
Visser added that only 10 percent of ACS’s income is generated in Spain.
“We are an international company,” Visser said. “We like this team that TransGas has put together; this is an impressive group of government and community leaders as well.”
These projects have been under continuous engineering work for many months, but these types of projects have longer overall timeframe.
“We have been working with Dr. Harris and his team since Dec. 2010,” Rutherford said. “This is one answer for the future of coal. Coal is our lifeblood. It is our hope with the information this delegation has provided that a positive announcement can be made within the next year that these projects have been financed.”
Rutherford said this timeframe is in place because engineers are working on what will be the final cost projection. Once it is completed, the final project financial package will be known.
“Everyone involved in this project believes we must use coal to not only bring jobs but provide transportation fuel for America,” Rutherford said.
Also part of the Pike County host delegation at the meeting was Jean Hale, president/CEO of Community Trust Bank, Dr. Howard Roberts and Dr. Eric Becher from UPIKE, Charles Baird from Coal Operators and Associates, Kitty Baird, chair of the Pike County Industrial Development Economic Authority (IDEA) Board, and state Sens. Ray Jones and Johnny Ray Turner.
Sen. Turner said after the meeting that he is excited about the possibility of TransGas coming to eastern Kentucky and he is all for anything that could boost the sluggish coal industry.
“What a progressive place this is,” Victor told the group. “There is so much going on. I am proud to be working with you all to bring coal jobs back. I believe it is God’s will and we will make this happen.”
Carlton says the Exxon-Mobil process that will be used to turn coal into transportation fuel is proven.
“We know this process will work,” he said. “There are several plants around the world that ACS has constructed that uses this process, such as the one ACS built in Puertollano, Spain.”
After the meeting, Rutherford was optimistic and admitted this is a big idea and a large undertaking.
“As famed architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham once said, ‘We must dream no little dreams, for they have no power to stir the hearts of man.’” Rutherford said. “We are all committed to ensure and secure the future of coal, which is in doubt today. We will continue to work to build a stable and strong coal industry. We must all hope and pray these TransGas projects become a reality. These type projects can ensure our future quality of life.”
Each plant will cost around $4 billion and produce 750,000 gallons of transportation fuel per day.