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New option for Pleasants station

CHARLESTON — A new possibility has arisen for the Pleasants Power Station, a coal-fired power plant that has been moving toward closure.

“We’ve got to make sure a deal is solidified. It’s getting closer, but not a completed deal,” said Pleasants County Commissioner Jay Powell in a telephone interview Thursday.

The current owner of the Pleasants Power Station site, Energy Transmission & Environmental Management, had intended to shut down the plant, demolish the structures, remediate the property and prepare it for future redevelopment.

Over the past few weeks, the situation has evolved while two subsidiaries of FirstEnergy power company examine whether taking over Pleasants Power Station would make sense.

The two power companies are in beginning stages of their assessment under the guidance of the Public Service Commission. Meanwhile, a new filing by the companies with the PSC indicates a separate emerging possibility.

A company called Omnis Fuel Technologies has entered the picture.

Negotiations are focusing on Omnis as a possibility to take over Pleasants Power Station, continuing to operate it to generate energy using a hydrogen byproduct of Omnis’s graphite production operations.

Omnis is developing technologies that could be subject to benefits under the federal Inflation Reduction Act, like hydrogen and carbon sequestration.

The emerging development possibility is all in an updated filing to the Public Service Commission from Monongahela Power and Potomac Energy, the two power companies that have been exploring their own takeover of the Pleasants Power Station to continue generating electricity.

“ETEM is particularly focused on a proposed transaction with Omnis Fuel Technologies LLC,” the two power companies wrote in the filing.

“If consummated, the Companies understanding that the ETEM/Omnis transaction would result in continued operation of Pleasants to generate energy using the hydrogen byproduct of Omnis’s graphite production operations — an outcome that would not involve Mon Power‘s acquisition or operation of Pleasants.”

The power companies wrote that if the Omnis and ETEM agreement goes forward, it would mean signing a purchase agreement by June 10 and closing a transaction before July 31.

“I can say this. There’s been weeks — and probably now for the last 60 days — serious discussions and analysis of the possibility of that plant being transferred to Omnis. It’s not a done deal at this point, but even as of today there continues to be serious negotiation,” Powell said.

“We, as a community, are cautiously optimistic. We’ve been through a negotiation process before and things can change quickly.”

Powell expressed excitement about the possibility even while being careful to say it still isn’t certain.

“If we’re fortunate enough that it occurs and Omnis Technology is correct on their technology this will be revolutionary not only for Pleasants County and the state of West Virginia but for entire country,” he said. “But we’ve still got to get there and not there yet.”

Even as the Omnis deal is explored, the two power companies would also continue to negotiate ETEM about factors involved in taking over the Pleasants Power Station for coal-fired generation.

In that case, ETEM and the two power companies are discussing a possible letter of intent. ETEM and power company representatives met over that matter in person in Akron, Ohio, and have continued to meet by telephone and video conference.

The letter of intent would govern how Pleasants Power Station would be preserved in an “able to restart state.” If that agreement can be worked out, power company representatives would return to the Public Service Commission to seek final approval of a surcharge on customers to meet expenses during further exploration of the takeover possibility.

Pleasants is a 1300-megawatt two-unit coal power plant located on the Ohio River near Belmont, Pleasants County. About 150 people work at the plant, which began operations in 1979.

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 ETEM. Even after the transfer, Energy Harbor has been running the plant to produce electricity — but that has been expected to cease in the next few weeks.

The power companies want to be sure that the plant doesn’t degrade and that employees remain available in case they decide to run it. But they do not explicitly intend to run the plant during the analysis period. It would be on pause.

The proposal is for at least a $3 million monthly surcharge over 12 months, a total of $36 million, to assure the plant remains operational. That amount could be more if there are additional costs identified.