Governors, senators and West Virginia’s Congressional delegation joined officials from CONSOL Energy , Synthesis Energy Systems (SES) and the Regional Economic Development Partnership (RED), to announce a coal-to-liquids (CTL) project that will help propel the State of West Virginia to the forefront of national energy leadership.

The construction of the nation’s first modern coal-to-liquids plant in the state’s Northern Panhandle signals the move forward to a potentially cleaner, more environmentally-friendly, and sustainable future.

Governor Joe Manchin joined Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd at the announcement and commented, “It’s clearer than ever that one of the biggest issues our state and country faces is meeting our energy needs. Technological solutions like this plant at Benwood will lead to more environmentally friendly ways to use our coal and hold the key to America’s energy security.”

“I am committed to making West Virginia the leader in clean coal technology and the construction of clean coal power and fuel liquefaction plants. We have the resources and expertise to realise our goal.”

At a time when energy security is often in question and the drive for greener, energy alternatives is urged, CTL and gas-to-liquids (GTL) projects are becoming increasingly prominent on the global stage.

In light of this, Sen. Rockefeller indicated that the project will give West Virginia an opportunity to show the world that the state is a global leader in energy issues and modern coal technology.

“We are in the midst of a serious energy crisis in America. Today, with this project and others in the works, West Virginia is announcing to the world that we’re not waiting around anymore,” Rockefeller said.

“We’re getting started with a CTL plant that will create jobs, meet modern environmental standards and develop our most abundant domestic resource - coal. This plant will help put our state and our country on the path to energy security and greater economic growth.”

CONSOL, the nation’s largest producer of bituminous coal, and SES, a global industrial gasification company, intend to develop their first US joint venture coal gasification and liquefaction plant in West Virginia. Representing around an $800m investment, the company’s respective boards of directors have authorised funds for development activities, including the front-end engineering design (FEED) package.

The FEED will include a carbon management strategy that will focus on carbon sequestration in a deep saline aquifer.

The plant is proposed to be situated near Benwood in Marshall County on a brown-fields redevelopment site, expected to be a ‘mine mouth’ facility with feedstock supplied directly from CONSOL’s nearby Shoemaker complex.

Coal will be converted to synthetic gas using SES proprietary technology, with the syngas used to produce approx. 720,000 metric tons per year of methanol that can be used as a feedstock for the chemical industry.

Officials expect the project will be capable of converting methanol to about 100 million gallons per year of 87 octane gasoline.