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OVU plans clean energy training facility

VIENNA – Ohio Valley University announced plans Friday to build an alternative clean energy facility, which will generate revenue and educational opportunities for the college, in addition to new energy resources for the community.

During an energy colloquium on Friday, OVU officials said the faith-based liberal arts college will soon become the beneficiary of an innovative, commercial-scale Alternative Clean Energy training center.

Jeff Dimick, executive vice president of OVU and president of OVU-ACE LLC, made the announcement along with Marcus Wiley, chairman of TCG Global LLC of Englewood, Colo., and a principal of OVU-ACE LLC.

“We are excited to publicly announce ACE, a new for-profit venture that will also serve as a research and development center for OVU students,” said Dimick. “The project will create an alternative revenue source for Ohio Valley University to assist in funding strategic initiatives, provide internships and increase endowments for various scholarships and facilities enhancements,” he said.

Dimick said the facility is scheduled to be operational in late 2018 and is designed to utilize approximately 600 tons of coal per day, producing up to 3,000 barrels of liquids a day. The overall estimated cost for the project is expected to be under $300 million.

Officials are still working to complete financing for the project.

“The site will produce primarily mixed alcohols (ethanol and methanol) along with other energy-related byproducts through patented processes utilizing coal as the primary feedstock,” Dimick said.

The project will integrate existing technologies into one facility to demonstrate that clean energy from coal is commercially viable and can be produced economically, officials said.

“Coal production in West Virginia has declined recently with huge losses in coal-related employment, gross revenue and taxes,” Wiley said. “West Virginia, a longtime leader in coal production, is now going to be leading the world in demonstrating alternative clean energy production from coal.”

The ACE facility is planned to be located in the greater Parkersburg-Vienna area and will bring employment opportunities to the region.

“Once operational, it is estimated that the facility will create approximately 60 new jobs. It will have a highly favorable impact on the local economy,” Dimick said, adding several properties are under consideration for location of the facility in proximity to OVU.

“The process is proven, safe and environmentally sensitive. It makes fuels, hydrogen and electricity and also captures carbon dioxide,” Wiley said. “The facility will be used as a training and education center for Ohio Valley University students to excel in this new cleaner world. OVU currently offers a baccalaureate degree in Energy Management and Production Engineering and these students will intern at the facility for hands-on experience,” he said.

“Just this week the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill that supports a clear path to the development of clean coal energy,” Dimick said. “If the bill merges with House legislation and becomes law, it will help make sure coal remains a key part of America’s energy mix well into the future. U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., were instrumental in authoring this legislation that supports projects like OVU-ACE,” he said.

OVU has retained Fluor Corporation to provide initial technical engineering services in the development of the ACE facility. Fluor prepared a feasibility study which included a gasifier provided by TCG Global LLC to produce clean syngas from coal.

A coal mining engineer with over 45 years of industry experience, Wiley is slated to present a paper on the new project at the 33rd International Pittsburgh Coal Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, later this year.

In addition to revenue and educational opportunities for OVU, the project could also help in research and development.

“In addition, discussions are underway to create a laboratory in conjunction with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey for research and education in the recovery of Rare Earth Elements from coal ash sources,” Wiley said.

“An additional research opportunity relates to Enhanced Oil Recovery utilizing old oil wells located in the Ohio River Valley, which is one of the oldest continuously producing oil fields in the United States. This facility is truly unique, utilizing proven technology, being environmentally sensitive, bringing jobs to West Virginia, while revolutionizing energy and education in America,” he said.

Dimick said the project provides the possibility for several new revenue streams for OVU, which can be used for scholarships, facility enhancement and other ways.

OVU officials have been talking with local manufacturers and industries which use mixed alcohols for energy production, which would provide a local market for the locally produced liquid products, he said.

“We would really like it to be West Virginia coal producing West Virginia fuels and alcohols and being consumed then in a West Virginia facility,” Dimick said.

Harold Shank, president of OVU, was pleased with Friday’s announcement.

“The ACE plant will help Ohio Valley University to network well with the larger community. As someone who grew up in a coal-mining family in Appalachia now to be president of a university that’s involved in helping to revitalize the coal industry is a real joy,” he said.

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