West Virginia Politicians Boosted Company Now Trying To Sell Them On ‘Untested’ Tech To Turn Coal Plant Green

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A company that has been supported by West Virginia’s highest-profile politicians is tying to sell the state on “untested” tech to convert one of its key coal power plants into a green energy project, E&E News reported Friday.

The California-based Omnis Technologies in early June signed a letter of intent to purchase the Pleasants Power Station and convert the coal-fired power plant into a hydrogen plant fueled by the byproducts of Omnis’ nearby graphite facility, according to local outlet WTAP. Industry experts cast doubt on whether the little-known company — whose green housing project in the state was praised by both the state’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin — was prepared to pull off such a significant transition, according to E&E News. (RELATED: EPA Issues Climate Rule Forcing Power Plants To Adopt Expensive Tech Or Shut Down)

“This is a company that as far as we know has never run a coal plant, and they face the additional challenges of converting it in a way that appears unprecedented and untested,” Seth Feaster, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFFA), told the outlet. Fellow IEFFA analysts described the project as “mystifying” and “oversized.”

“Let’s say you’re producing graphite, do you need a 1,300MW power plant to do the graphite production?” Feaster said, according to E&E. “The other companies that produce graphite aren’t buying power plants.”

Justice, on the other hand, praised the “great people” at Omnis and described their green housing project in Bluefield, West Virginia, as “truly revolutionary,” at a May 15 groundbreaking event. Manchin described his participation in the event as a “distinct honor,” and likewise praised Omnis for “revolutionizing” the residential construction industry.

“Today is an announcement that’s so exciting, it’s beyond belief,” Justice said. “It’s really, really special.”

Screenshot/Public/YouTube/Governor Jim Justice

Screenshot/Public/YouTube/Governor Jim Justice

“I have never heard of Omnis or [its co-founder] Simon [Hodson],” said George Miller, a senior analyst at Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, a London-based firm that specializes in analyzing supply chains related to the energy transition. He questioned the company’s ability to generate sufficient hydrogen from the graphite production process for it to be economical.

Hodson pushed back on this in a statement to E&E News, claiming that his firms’ graphite facility will produce roughly 200,000 tons of hydrogen annually, enough for the plant to operate at full capacity. The company would need a few months to assuage analysts’ fears, but that “it will be done and it will be proven” that Omnis is up to the task, Hodson said.

Jobs are on the line for the 154 employees at Pleasants Power Station, which is slated to shut down at the end of next month, and Omnis hopes to retain them, E&E News reported. The plan has drawn significant praise from Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell, who has been working closely with the companies involved to keep the plant open.

“They give me no reason to believe they are not only sincere, but they give me hope they can pull off something miraculous with the good Lord’s help,” Powell told E&E News.

The Pleasants Power Station has repeatedly staved off a shutdown in recent years, boxed in from all sides by cheap natural gas, massive government-driven investment in renewables and strict new anti-coal regulations pushed by the Biden administration, E&E News reported. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new rules that would effectively require coal and natural gas plants to either capture their emissions or switch to burning hydrogen by 2040, or be forced to shut down.

Omnis did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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