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Coal-to-Diesel Plant in Spencer County Clears EPA Hurdle

DALE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Plans for a much-discussed $2 billion coal-to-diesel facility in Spencer County are still in play following a ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Delaware-based Riverview Energy Corp. says the agency in March denied a petition to block a key permit for the facility in the town of Dale, a ruling which went unchallenged.

The final air permit was issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management in June 2019 and was originally challenged by Southwest Citizens for Quality of Life Inc. and Valley Watch. The petitioners had until August to challenge the EPA’s ruling.

“The EPA’s decision last spring is a clear message that the United States is serious about opening the door for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that welcomes and supports clean-coal and hydrogen innovation,” Greg Merle, president of Riverview Energy, said in a news release.

However, the project still faces a hurdle at the state level; an appeal of the IDEM permit has yet to be ruled on by a judge.

Plans for what Riverview Energy calls the first U.S. direct coal-hydrogenation refinery were first announced in March 2018. At the time, the project was set to cost $2.5 billion, but a spokesperson says design and development adjustments lowered the overall cost.

Riverview Energy says the facility will be able to produce 4.8 million barrels of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel that is 30% cleaner than federal standards, as well as 2.5 million barrels of naptha, which is used in solvents, fuels and plastics. 

The company says the plant will use a coal-hydrogenation process in which coal particles are processed using a carbon-free method that does not burn or gasify the goal. The particles are then hydrogenated in a closed system at high pressure and temperature.

“The plant will have a significantly lower carbon footprint than other technologies, and nothing will go to waste,” Merle said. “All the plant’s products will be marketable – and with stricter federal regulations in auto fuel efficiency and now in global marine shipping, the market is prime for this innovative process that uses the U.S’s vast coal resources in a highly clean process.”

Riverview Energy says construction on the plant is expected to take three years to complete, though a timeline for groundbreaking was not provided. The project is expected to create about 2,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs.