CHRISNEY — “It’s a matter of location,” Riverview Energy President Gregory Merle said as to why his company chose Dale for its proposed direct coal hydrogenation plant.
He was speaking to hundreds of people who attended the Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation’s annual luncheon Friday afternoon at the Spencer County Youth & Community Center in Chrisney.
Merle said the area is “strategically placed for manufacturing” and products — such as those Riverview Energy’s plant would produce — can be shipped “to anywhere in the U.S. in record time.”
Riverview Energy has proposed a $2.5 billion direct coal hydrogenation plant for more than 500 acres of land on the north side of Dale. The Lincolnland Economic Development Corporation is responsible for recruiting the company to the area.
The plant is expected to use 1.6 million tons of coal and produce 4.8 million barrels of clean diesel and 2.5 million barrels of Naphtha each year.
Opponents of the project believe it creates environmental, health and quality of life concerns. They also say coal is a dying industry.
Many in support believe it will boost the local economy and bring much-needed jobs to the area.
The process the plant would use — which isn’t currently used anywhere in the U.S. — does not burn or gasify coal, according to Riverview Energy, and the result is “an ultra-low-sulfur energy source.”
In addition to an ideal location for shipping, Merle said southwestern Indiana is also attractive to his company because of the proximity to coal and this area’s coal being what he calls “one of the best” for the hydrogenation process.
He also said the proposed plant would create a path for more industry to come into the area, and it alone would create an industry.
“Our long-term vision is to build several of these plants,” Merle said. “Coal is the lifeblood of the economy.”
He added that the project “is a needed step forward for the [coal] industry.
Something new for coal in the U.S.,” he said.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management hosted a public hearing in early December to hear public comment on the proposed plant’s air permit the state agency is tasked with issuing. More than 400 people attended the hearing, with some voicing support and others raising concern about the project.
According to IDEM, if an applicant, such as Riverview Energy, “demonstrates that it will be able to comply with all federal and state laws regarding air pollution control, IDEM is required by law to issue the air permit.”
The agency is expected to make a permitting decision sometime this year.