Mountaineer pilot plant

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American Electric Power (AEP) had originally proposed to build two integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plants in the West Virginia/Ohio area. The Mountaineer IGCC plant would have been built next to the existing Mountaineer Plant along the Ohio River in Mason County, West Virginia. It would be essentially the same as the Great Bend IGCC plant proposed for Meigs County, Ohio.[1]

In Oct. 2006, AEP filed an air permit application with the state Department of Environmental Protection. In Jan. 2007, AEP announced it would delay building the plants for six months due to rising material and labor costs. In Feb. 2007, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection estimated a draft permit would be released in two to three months.[2] On June 18, 2007, AEP filed an application with the state Public Service Commission; hearings on this application began Dec. 5.[3]

Project costs have risen from $1.2 billion to $2.2 billion, and AEP wants ratepayers to pay for part of this increase; at hearings, consumer advocate groups have argued against the project.[2] During a licensing hearing on Dec. 10, AEP agreed to potentially cap construction costs. [1]

In April, 2008, the West Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) rejected the plant in West Virginia as well as a rate hike to help pay for it. The SCC said that AEP's cost of $2.33 billion, which had not been revised since November, 2006, and was therefore "not credible."[4]

In December 2008, AEP applied for a Class 5 Underground Injection Control Permit from the West Virginia DEP. If approved, the permit would allow AEP to inject and permanently store carbon dioxide through injection wells into the subsurface located in Mason County.[5]

In August 2009 AEP announced that it is seeking $334 million in federal stimulus funds for the Mountaineer plant to become the site of the nation's first commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage system. The project would go online in 2015. AEP proposes that the commercial-scale project would capture 90 percent of the CO2 from 235 megawatts, or about 20 percent of the plant's 1,300-megawatt capacity, and would again inject it underground. AEP applied to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Clean Coal Power Initiative, which according to the DOE Web site is offering up to $1.4 billion to applicants who will share at least 50 percent of the cost of their projects.[6]

To recover the costs AEP proposes that West Virginia electricity rates will increase by approximately 12% by 2012.[7]

In December 2009, AEP was awarded a $334 million grant from the Department of Energy for a commercial scale project that will capture carbon from its Mountaineer plant.[8]

On July 14, 2011, American Electric Power said it had decided to table plans to build the full-scale carbon-capture plant at Mountaineer, saying they did not believe state regulators would let the company recover its costs by charging customers, thus leaving it no "compelling regulatory or business reason to continue the program." The federal Department of Energy had pledged to cover half the cost, but AEP said it was unwilling to spend the remainder in a political climate that had changed strikingly since it began the project. A senior Obama administration official said that the A.E.P. decision was a result of the political stalemate on climate change legislation, which failed to pass the Senate. Public service commissions of both West Virginia and Virginia turned down the company’s request for full reimbursement for the pilot plant, operating since 2009. West Virginia said earlier in 2011 that the cost should have been shared among all the states where AEP does business; Virginia hinted in July 2010 that it should have been paid for by all utilities around the United States, since a successful project would benefit all of them.[9][10]

Concerning AEP's statement that costs could not be passed along, West Virginia journalist Ken Ward noted: "It's not exactly true that utility commissions aren’t allowing companies to pass costs of projects like this on to consumers... The West Virginia PSC allowed AEP rate hikes to cover our state’s share of the costs. Virginia regulators seemed willing to do the same. [11] James Fallows of The Atlantic wrote: "This is the kind of project that (was) the best and urgently necessary hope to allow the US, China, and other countries to keep using coal ... while reducing carbon emissions. [12]

Project Details

Sponsor: Appalachian Power Company (American Electric Power)
Location: Mason County, West Virginia
Capacity: 629 megawatts
Type: Integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)
Projected in service: N/A
Status: Cancelled


Citizen Groups



  1. 1.0 1.1 “Appalachian Power Signals Partial Compromise on Power Plant,” Huntington Herald-Dispatch, December 10, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed January 2007. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  3. “Hearings on Coal-Fired Plant to Begin,” Charleston Daily Mail, December 5, 2007.
  4. "SCC says no to new APCO power plant and rate hike,", April 14, 2008
  5. Department of Water and Waste Management, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
  6. "AEP Proposes Clean Coal Project in W.Va." The State Journal, August 27, 2009
  7. "Appalachian Power Fact Sheet: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Project" Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Technologies at MIT Website, October 2009
  8. "American Electric Gets Fed Funds," Zacks Equity Research, December 7, 2009.
  9. Matthew Wald and John Broder, "Utility Shelves Ambitious Plan to Limit Carbon" NY Times, July 13, 2011.
  10. Scott DiSavino and Timothy Gardner "AEP halts carbon capture plan due climate inaction" Reuters, July 14, 2011.
  11. Ken Ward "W.Va. leaders keep their heads in the sand on climate change and mountaintop removal" Coal Tattoo, July 15, 2011.
  12. James Fallows "Mountaineer: Sobering News out of West Virginia" The Atlantic, July 15, 2011.

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