By CASEY JUNKINS
The Intelligencer Staff Writer
SHADY SIDE, OHIO — FirstEnergy Corp. can still generate up to seven megawatts of electricity at the R.E. Burger plant along Ohio 7 during peak demand times, although the firm plans to completely shutter the coal-fired facility next year.
Next year also happens to be when officials with Thailand- based PTT Global Chemical and Tokyo’s Marubeni Corp. are scheduled to decide whether they will build a $5 billion ethane cracker complex that would likely include the 130-acre Burger plant site and some surrounding property.
“We do continue to own the R.E. Burger plant,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said. “We plan to retire it as of May 31, 2016.”
Young said FirstEnergy is aware of the discussions regarding a possible ethane cracker at the Burger property, but said the corporation is not yet committed to selling the site to anyone.
“Any discussion of plans to sell it would be premature,” she said.
Previously operated by the former Ohio Edison Co., the Burger and the W.H. Sammis plants became part of FirstEnergy through a corporate merger in the 1990s. The Akron, Ohio-based firm still operates the huge Sammis plant in Jefferson County, which stretches over the lanes of Ohio 7.
Although the Burger plant stopped producing coal-fired electricity on a regular basis in 2010 to reduce FirstEnergy’s emissions of sulfur dioxide, Young said the company still occasionally uses the facility when customer demand is high.
In 2009, FirstEnergy officials said they planned to convert the coal-fired Burger plant so that it could burn biomass agricultural waste for electricity. The $200 million project was part of the company’s response to reduce system-wide sulfur dioxide emissions to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. However, this never came to fruition, as FirstEnergy officials eventually decided the biomass project was not economical.
In making the ethane cracker announcement last week, Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said it is too “premature” to indicate who would own the plant. Monday, Thomas said commissioners are not privy to any discussions regarding a possible sale from FirstEnergy to PTT Global Chemical and Marubeni.
If constructed, the cracker complex would use ethane extracted from the region’s Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The facility would then “crack” the ethane into ethylene, which is used as a basis for plastics and resins contained in items such as food packaging, textiles and pharmaceuticals.
“FirstEnergy:?Talks Of Sale Are Premature” 28 Apr 2015: