Business, Energy, State Government

Quantum Pleasants asks PSC to dismiss Hope Gas petition regarding new pipeline to its planned hydrogen power plant project

MORGANTOWN – The unnamed plant and pipeline company that Hope Gas has petitioned the Public Service Commission about has come forward,

The plant asked the PSC on Tuesday to dismiss the petition so that its project can move forward. On Wednesday, Hope asked the PSC to hold the case in abeyance so that it and the other parties can discuss the issue.

The plant is Quantum Pleasants, formerly the Pleasants Power Station in Belmont, Pleasants County. Pleasants was mothballed in May 2023 and 160 workers were laid off, Quantum reminded the PSC. When it bought the plant, Quantum entered into a one-year purchase agreement with Hope so that it could restart the plant, which it did Aug. 30.

Quantum then transferred the plant to an affiliate, Omnis Pleasants, which owns and operates it.

Another Quantum affiliate, Omnis Fuel Technologies, plans to buy land next to the plant and build “New Facilities” to produce hydrogen, graphite and graphene using natural gas and coal. The plant itself will be converted to a hydrogen-fuel power plant and will use no more gas.

But the new facilities will use far more gas than the plant ever did, Quantum said, and Hope has told Quantum it can’t supply the needed amount. So, Quantum began talks with Texas-based Icon New Energy Pipeline, which plans to build a new line to serve the site.

Hope petitioned the PSC saying that the pipeline plan skirted state law by failing to provide adequate notice to Hope and wanted the PSC to intervene and require Quantum and Icon to conform with state regulations.

Quantum made several points regarding the economic and legal issues of Hope’s petition.

It said the new facilities need to be operational by the end of 2025 in order to meet financial goals. Icon believes it can meet that deadline, and then provide gas cheaper than Hope could.

The unregulated bypass law Hope refers to in seeking PSC intervention doesn’t apply here, Quantum said, because the new facilites and Omnis Fuel are not existing customers.

And the law doesn’t specify a time for notice, Quantum said. It only requires the customer to take a pay for a large volume of gas in the next calendar year. So, providing premature notice would obligate them to pay for gas they may not be able to use. Therefore, it’s legal and prudent to wait to provide notice to Hope until it can take the gas and the supplier can provide it.

Quantum said that, contrary to Hope’s assertion, the loss of the plant as a customer won’t significantly affect other Hope customers. The plant’s gas volume is a relatively minor portion of Hope’s sales.

Quantum adds a criticism: “As it has done elsewhere on its system, Hope has refrained for too long from making capital investments so that it could be in a position to adequately and fully serve the needs of its customers.”

At the higher sale price Hope would require, Quantum said, the new facilities might not be competitive or viable. But when opened, they will employ about 800 workers – far more than the old Pleasants plant. “The commission should allow the new facilities to develop according to business dictates, and not prematurely impose financial commitments.”

Icon’s comments

Icon engaged the same legal team as Quantum to provide conditional comments on Hope’s petition and the PSC’s initial order seeking more information.

Icon noted that as an LLC, not a utility, it doesn’t fall under PSC jurisdiction, except for safety regulations.

Icon told the PSC it was formed to develop gas infrastructure solutions for underserved areas of West Virginia’s Ohio Valley. In this project, it will build a 20-inch steel pipeline running from Tyler County to the Omnis Fuel site.

Icon will transport 100% West Virginia gas. The line will be built by West Virginia union workers and operated by West Virginia employees. It is not condemning any right-of-way but negotiating with landowners and has received positive community support.

To meet Quantum’s deadline, Icon said, it will begin construction in January 2025 and have the line in service by Aug. 1, 2025. It will be submitting permits this month.

Icon told the PSC it is willing to work with Hope for their mutual benefit. “Icon is more than willing to sell transportation to Hope Gas and can do so at a materially lower rate than what Hope Gas would incur by building its own pipeline. Icon’s objective is to drive costs for consumers down, resulting in economic expansion and growth for all people in West Virginia.”

Hope, in its Wednesday request to hold the case in abeyance, said it will advise the PSC at a later date if it wishes the PSC to proceed with consideration of its earlier petition or if Hope will withdraw it.