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Empire official discusses riverfront development

By Warren Scott, The Weirton Daily Times

FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. — An official with Empire Diversified Energy discussed ongoing efforts and plans to develop more than 800 acres of property once owned or occupied by local steel mills during Wednesday’s meeting of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce.

Chip Fenske, director of business development for Empire, said those plans include expanded barge and rail facilities, the construction of a pig iron plant that could supply local and other steel mills, a plastics recycling plant and another plant used to convert waste into hydrogen used to fuel trucks.

Fenske noted Empire has applied for more than $65 million in federal grants to support, with its own investments, expansion of existing barge facilities along the Ohio River at the city’s north end.

He said the company has invested millions in environmental cleanups at the site supported by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s voluntary remediation program.

Fenske said tons of slag were dumped at the site by previous owners, some of it 55 feet thick in areas, and Empire has salvaged and sold iron scrap from and aggregate from it.

He added there had been a 120,000-ton pile of coke on the site that Empire crushed, screened and sold to a local steel mill until it closed.

Fenske showed a photo of a large pile of pig iron, “each piece about 90 percent pure iron,” that Empire plans to sell as feedstock to other businesses for steel production.

He said the company hopes to build its own pig iron plant with a capacity to produce 250,000 tons of the material each year.

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