The Baard Energy Company of Vancouver, Washington, wants to build a $6.8 billion coal refinery in Wellsville, on the Ohio River.
The last thing Ohio needs is another expensive, polluting coal plant
Baard Energy calls its plant the “Ohio River Clean Fuels Coal-To-Liquids Facility.” That’s misleading: there’s nothing clean about it. It will be a filthy belching refinery. A “refinery” is defined as “an installation that manufactures finished petroleum products from crude oil, unfinished oils, natural gas liquids, other hydrocarbons, and oxygenates.” Coal is a hydrocarbon, and the Baard plant is a refinery.
Washington, Baard Energy’s home state, has a total of one coal plant. Ohio already has 27 coal plants within its boundaries, and more on the other side of the Ohio River. The third largest Ohio coal-fired power plant, the 2,316 megawatt W.H. Sammis plant in Stratton, and one of the largest hazardous waste incinerators in the world, the Waste Technologies Industries facility in East Liverpool, are both within 10 miles of the proposed coal plant.
The Baard coal refinery would require 9.3 million tons of coal a year, or 186 million tons over 20 years.
Here is what Ohio EPA permits would allow the proposed Baard coal refinery to put into our air every year:
Source: Ohio EPA permits for the proposed Baard coal plant in Wellsville, Ohio, compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The permitted emissions do not take into account possible flaring due to process upsets or emergencies, when pollutants may be sent out untreated. Of the permitted pollutants, many emissions would be concentrated in start-ups and shut-downs at the facility. Hazardous air pollutants are a group of 25 pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. They include lead, formaldehyde, and solvents such as benzene. “Particulates (PM 10)” is a subset of “Particulates total”, but are reported separately.
The soot Baard Energy plans to emit can cause shortness of breath, aggravate asthma and bronchitis, increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and heart attacks or even premature death in people with heart and lung disease. The refinery would straddle the border of Columbiana and Jefferson Counties, an area that already violates public health standards for soot.
Why should neighbors in Columbiana and Jefferson Counties be subjected to another major source of air pollution?
Prices for the kind of coal Baard says it will use have risen sharply due to increased exports. If Baard Energy adds another 9.3 million tons a year to demand, that will push coal prices higher, and that means higher electricity costs.
This coal refinery would be a potential new market for mountaintop removal coal
Baard Energy wants to burn 9.3 million tons of coal a year in its proposed coal refinery. Where would it come from? Baard Energy won’t pin itself down to an answer, except that it will be “bituminous” coal. This kind of coal can be found from Pennsylvania to northern Alabama, with the heaviest concentrations in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, and in Illinois, Colorado and Utah. That’s a very large area, centered on the region where mountaintop removal is underway.
Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining where mountains are literally blown up — devastating communities throughout Appalachia, polluting drinking water and destroying rivers. So far, 500 Appalachian mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal. Reclamation is not possible.
What is certain is that the biggest supply of coal with easy Ohio River access to the proposed Baard coal plant is West Virginia, where the worst mountaintop removal coal mining is going on.
Why would we want to give mountaintop coal mining a new market?
The origin of the coal-to-liquid process
The Baard Energy company plans to use a technology developed for use in World War II. In the 1930s, Hitler prepared Germany to fight a world war with no secure supplies of oil. The solution was to make oil from coal, using the Fischer-Tropsch process at 13 synthetic fuel plants. After 1944, when oil supplies from Nazi-aligned Romania were bombed out, Luftwaffe planes flew, and the Reich tanks rolled, almost exclusively on coal-derived gasoline.
In 1944, U.S. bombers destroyed this synthetic fuel refinery at Zeitz, Germany, just south of Leipzig, which had produced liquid fuel from locally available brown coal since 1938. In 1955, apartheid South Africa began to experiment with the Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquid process, and greatly increased its use as international sanctions for apartheid rule escalated.
Environmental and Economic Problems
- Fact Sheet on Baard Energy’s Coal-to-Liquids Facility, Natural Resources Defense Council, undated.
- Perspective on Cleaner Coal, U.S. EPA, October 24, 2006.
- Producing Alternative Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass in Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio River Clean Fuels, December 12, 2006.
- Baseline Technical and Economic Assessment of a Commercial Scale Fischer-Tropsch Liquids Facility, U.S. Department of Energy, April 9, 2007.
- Project Summary, Coal and Biomass to Liquids, 53,00 barrels/day plant, Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio River Clean Fuels, LLC (Baard Energy),July 10, 2007
- Transcript, Public Hearing, Draft Permit to Install at Ohio River Clean Fuels, Wellsville, Ohio, Ohio EPA, September 10, 2008.
- Response to Governor’s Questions, Baard Energy, November 17, 2008.
- Loan Guarantee Application to Department of Energy, Part 1, Baard Energy, December 22, 2008, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.