Power plant clears hurdles in Good Spring

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GOOD SPRING - The proposed $800 million power plant in Porter Township passed another major milestone.

The project has been in the works for about four years and could create more than 1,000 temporary jobs during construction and about 100 full-time permanent positions once completed.

"This power plant is designed to be the cleanest coal power plant in the world," Nick Cohen, EmberClear's chief operating officer, said in an email Tuesday, February 14.

Future Fuels LLC originally proposed the project but was bought last year by EmberClear Corp., a publicly-traded company based in Canada. EmberClear owns about 560 acres in the village of Good Spring, Porter Township.

On Monday, the corporation signed an energy agreement with China's Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. HCERI developed patented gasification technology that is already used in China. The institute is affiliated with Huaneng Power Group, the largest power utility company in China.

The technology license allows EmberClear to develop the low-emission plant in the United States.

The Good Spring Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle is designed to turn a broad range of coals into syngas, a gas mixture that contains varying amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which is then used in a turbine to generate power, Cohen said.

Last year, when the project was being discussed, EmberClear CEO Albert Lin said federal grants and loans were being evaluated for the project and private domestic investments were possible. He also said the project would be developed by EmberClear, but will eventually be owned and operated by a utility company that will also have input in project financing.

EmberClear did not discuss the identity of the utility company.

"EmberClear is exploring and evaluating options for project financing," Cohen said in Tuesday's email.

The next major milestone for the Good Spring project is for the corporation to secure power purchase agreements, Cohen said. He also said the timeline for completion depends on how quickly agreements can be reached.

"The White House and the Chinese government both see the immense value of EmberClear's agreement with HCERI, not only in terms of the jobs it will help support but more importantly, it is the cleaner energy we'll be able to provide to Americans in addition to the improved energy security," Lin said in a press release issued Tuesday.

"This partnership is a strong example of how American energy companies can work with Chinese partners to provide new, lower-emission energy solutions while simultaneously creating jobs here in America," Lin said. "The impressive track record of Chinese investment and technical achievement in this field has given rise to a surge of global demand for this type of clean energy technology from other countries, utilities and consumers sensitive to climate change."

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States is the second only to China as the world's largest coal producer. The EIA said North America, putting out 1.1 billion short tons, accounted for about 15 percent of the global production in 2010, with the U.S. making up 93 percent for the North American region. A short ton is 2,000 pounds.

China led the overall growth in global production from 1980 to 2010 and currently has a share of 44 percent of the global market, according to the EIA.

"The world is primed to take advantage of China's investments and deployments of technologies converting coal to all sorts of energy sources with far lower emissions," Lin said. "In particular, making electric power and gasoline. Both will create thousands of construction jobs and bring in billions of dollars to the region where our plant will operate for many years."

Gary Bender, who is Schuylkill County's grant writer, was a Porter Township supervisor when EmberClear made the proposal for the plant in Good Spring.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the township and the county overall," Bender said Wednesday. "The project marries energy production and coal production."

Bender said most residents seem to support the project because of the number of mining jobs it will bring to the area.

"They are people who just like to mine and are excited about the project," Bender said. "There are always concerns with a project of this size that will be addressed."

Bender said he hopes the plant will also use the railroads in the township, which would provide another great opportunity for the county.

"It's a large project and I'm delighted to see it continue to move forward," Bender said. "I think it is a great area for this type of project."

Frank J. Zukas, president of Schuylkill Economic Development Corp., said he was optimistic about the project's completion due to the amount of money the company has already invested.

"This is another major step forward for a project that looks like it's going to happen," Zukas said Wednesday. "It's good news for the county."

Zukas said the size and configurations of the plans were probably changed frequently, noting the ongoing debate of using coal or natural gas in the state, which could have resulted in longer developmental stages.

"I imagine the energy markets have changed dramatically and there is an ongoing analysis to see what makes the most economic sense," Zukas said. "The company needs to make sure their fuel stock is the right one when investing that kind of money into a project."

Zukas said one of the reasons why the project has the support of locals is the long process the company is following, which gives people a chance to review and understand the plans.

"The location is a relatively isolated area with a history of mining operations," Zukas said. "Zoning and mining ordinances are consistent with the property. It has a lot of positive aspects relative to the area and the community's support."

For more information about EmberClear Corp. and the proposed Good Spring IGCC, visit www.emberclearenergy.com.

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