Gilberton Coal-to-Clean-Fuels and Power Project

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Coal magnate John Rich teamed up with Suid Afrikaanse Steenkool en Olie (Sasol) in 1998 to form Waste Management & Processors (WMP), which proposed a 41 megawatt (MW) coal-to-oil (synfuel) plant (the first such proposal in the country) in Gilberton, PA. WMP now includes members from Rich's Waste Management & Processors, SASOL, Uhde GmbH, Bechtel, Shell, and ChevronTexaco; Eastman Chemical has been named as a possible operator for the plant.

The biggest funders are Morgan Stanley and UBS, who have arranged $746 million in private financing. The plant would be built in Mahanoy Township between the John B. Rich Memorial Power Station and the SCI-Mahanoy state prison. Construction of the plant would result in the destruction of 76.5 acres of deciduous forest. The plant would utilize technology from South Africa, and convert anthracite waste coal into zero-sulfur diesel fuel to produce 5,000 barrels of diesel fuel a day.[1][2][3]

In Feb. 2007, U.S. Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey Jr. and U.S. Rep. Tim Holden pressured the Bush Administration into renewing a $100 million loan that had been awarded in late 2002 under the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Coal Power Initiative.[4] On Nov. 1, 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy released a final Environmental Impact Statement.[5] The air permit for the project is currently being appealed to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. Water quality and storage tank installation permits are still pending with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

According to the Sierra Club, as of December 2007, projected costs for the plant have skyrocketed, leaving sponsors scrambling to secure funding.[6] The U.S. Dept. of Energy plans to decide by January 31, 2008, whether or not to continue extending project sponsors the $100 million federal loan.[7]

In an August 2008 interview, sponsor John Rich admitted that he had given up on setting a timeline for the plant's construction. With skyrocketing costs and lack of government support, the now $1 billion project is stalled indefinitely.[8]

In February 2011, it was reported that Canada-based EmberClear is planning to build an $800 million-plus IGCC power plant in Schuylkill County, in the village of Good Spring in Porter Township, the Good Spring Plant. CEO Albert Lin believes the project could begin before 2012.[9]

Project Details

Sponsor: Waste Management & Processors
Location: Gilberton, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
Capacity: 5034 bbl./day synthetic fuel, plus 41 MW electricity
Type: Coal gasification
Projected in service: 2010
Status: On hold


Citizen Groups



  1. $47 Million in Tax Incentives Targeted for Coal-to-Oil Plant], Pottsville Republican Herald, May 12, 1999.
  2. Coal-to-Fuel Initiative Gets $100 Million Grant, Pottsville Republican Herald, January 14, 2003.
  3. WMPI Announces Execution of Agreement with SASOL on Using SASOL's Fischer- Tropsch Technology in the Proposed Gilberton Integrated Fuels Plant, WMPI press release, April 18, 2005.
  4. Plant Will Keep Loan, Pottsville Republican Herald, February 17, 2007.
  5. Coal-to-Oil Gets Final Approval, Pottsville Republican Herald, November 2, 2007.
  6. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2008. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  7. Word Nears On 'Liquid-Coal' Plant, Harrisburg Inquirer, January 14, 2008.
  8. "No plans for coal-to-oil plant despite increased interest"Standard Speaker, August 30, 2008.
  9. Ben Wolfgang, "Forefront of clean-coal technology could be Schuylkill County" Republican Herald, Feb. 6, 2011.

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