Sun Coke looking for contracts

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 21, 2000

A site in Haverhill near the Aristech Chemical plant remains high on Sunoco Inc.

Friday, January 21, 2000

A site in Haverhill near the Aristech Chemical plant remains high on Sunoco Inc.’s list for the potential site of a new coke plant.

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"We are always looking at other sites," said Jerry Davis, Sunoco spokesperson. "Haverhill is certainly an area where we are looking. We will build a plant. The timing and location are less certain. These are sizable investments and they take time. And the pace of that will be dictated by the discussions we have."

Haverhill has many things to offer, though, Davis said.

"We’re looking there because they have the infrastructure, transportation, coal is there and they have a solid workforce," he said.

If officials would decide to build a plant on the Scioto County site, it would bring 200 full-time positions to the area and hundreds of potential construction jobs, which would be welcome relief to the economic hardships of both Scioto and Lawrence counties.

"It would be great," said John Knauff, Scioto County commissioner. "We haven’t heard any news lately. The last words were that they had hopes and plans to one day in the future to have a facility here. They like the location but they are working on orders. When they get enough orders to justify a plant, we’re very much in the running for it."

Sunoco already has applied for a clean air permit from the Portsmouth Local Air Agency.

Currently, the permit is in the hands of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said Cindy Charles, spokesperson for the Portsmouth air agency.

"I forwarded it to Columbus at the beginning of December," Mrs. Charles said. "Currently, it’s being reviewed."

This process can take several months, or longer, to complete, said Linda Oros, spokesperson for the Ohio EPA.

"The first thing we need to receive is a complete application, and as long as it takes to get it completed, that’s how long that can take," Ms. Oros said. "If something about the application is not up to speed as far as regulations, they will have to come back to us with revised information to make it something that can be considered. The process can go on for awhile."

The company’s application has been submitted in full, however, Ms. Oros said.

"We’re working on developing conditions for the application they’ve submitted," she said. "We’re deciding the conditions necessary to implement what they’ve applied for."

Which should not be a problem considering the high-technology Sunoco plans to use in the proposed plant, Sunoco spokesman Bud Davis said.

The new plant would use the Jewell-Thompson process, which generates electricity and heat while incinerating toxic emissions in the coke-making process, instead of attempting to trap those gases. Trapping gases can lead to some escaping into the atmosphere, he said.

Although Sunoco officials are not promising anything, yet, an air permit application for a site in Pittsburgh, which was previously considered for a new plant, has not been completed, Jerry Davis said.

"We are not pursuing a particular site at Hazelwood at this time," he said. "LTV – a steel company – has applied for a permit, but it’s not our permit."

Before Sunoco officials make a formal announcement about a site location, several key factors will have to fall in place, Davis said.

"We’re pursuing the contractors at this time and that is a key to the whole decision-making process," he said. "That particular location (Haverhill) does have the infrastructure. The customer base is there. But these contracts take time. Both parties have to make long-term commitments."

Sunoco should have no problems finding those customers, Knauff said.

"We don’t have any large steel mills close by," he said. "But they’re around."

Although Knauff wouldn’t say the project is in a holding pattern on both the company’s and county’s end, he did say it’s not moving forward at this time.

"Most of your infrastructural improvements depend on having a customer," he said. "Since they are on a hold to building a plant, we’re on a hold with our sewers and an overpass. These are things that could be completed while the plant is being built."

Officials in the City of Portsmouth first learned of Sunoco’s interest in the Norfolk and Southern property in Haverhill about four years ago. Since that time, negotiations have been ongoing.