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Transaction complete: Pleasants Power Station has new owner

BELMONT, W.Va. — Signed. Sealed–with the delivery coming soon.

California-based Omnis Fuel Technologies is now the official owner of the Pleasants Power Station. The sale was completed Tuesday.

Richard Hulme

Omnis President Richard Hulme said they chose the coal-fired power plant in Pleasants County to convert to the company’s new hydrogen technology for a number of reasons not the least of which is that they felt wanted.

“The community has welcomed us here and the plant itself, the history of the plant, has been very welcoming and open and encouraging to us. The whole combination really just made this plant the best choice for us,” Hulme said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

He also gave credit to Gov. Jim Justice and Pleasants County Commission President Jay Powell.

Powell called the sale “undoubtedly our biggest victory thus far,” in a recent interview with MetroNews.

Until late last year, it had been owned by Energy Harbor, which is pursuing a green energy strategy and transferred control of the plant to another company called Energy Transmission & Environmental Management.

ETEM had intended to shut down the plant, demolish the structures, remediate the property and prepare it for future redevelopment.

Enter Omnis Fuel Technologies.

“We have been excited about the opportunity to bring a new technology in converting coal to hydrogen and the using that hydrogen as a fuel source for the plant. That’s the plan here,” Hulme said.

Omnis has done research and development work on the process and it runs commercial demonstration prototypes. Pleasants will be the company’s first full-scale plant to use the technology.

“Obviously we’ll be learning a lot as we go through it. It is scalable and we intend to be successful with this first plant and then move forward with other coal-fired plants,” he said.

The plant, which has been mothballed for a few months, will go back to using coal as its fuel source until Omnis can build a hydrogen facility next door. Hulme said the switch will take place after that.

“We will convert the coal to hydrogen through a process that uses a ultra-high temperature pyrolysis and converts the coal to hydrogen and graphite,” Hulme said. “The hydrogen portion that comes off will be piped directly into the power plant which allows us to avoid the typical challenges with hydrogen of transportation and storage which is very expensive.”

The power generated will be sold on the power grid through PJM.

Hulme said Wednesday the company has its own funding sources for the plant and the construction of the hydrogen producing facility.

Hulme said even though coal is the main source to produce the hydrogen that will fuel the plant, environmental concerns should be minimal.

“Our conversion of coal to hydrogen will produce essentially no greenhouse gases and then, of course, the hydrogen as a fuel source produces no greenhouse gases because when hydrogen is burned the only emissions from that is water vapor,” Hulme said.

The Pleasants Power Station currently has 130 workers and Hulme said they plan to keep them all and add some.

“They are all staying on. The entire workforce is staying on and then as we expand into our hydrogen production facility next door we will actually be able to expand on the workforce. We don’t exactly know how many but it will be the current workforce plus more,” Hulme said.

The plant could fire back up later this month, Powell told MetroNews earlier.

“Think about that. It was slated to be scrapped. Taken out on barges,” Powell said. “Now we may operate in a revolutionary way in the next 18 to 24 months.”

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