- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008

FROSTBURG, Md. (AP) | State Business and Economic Development Secretary David W. Edgerley has given his support to using Western Maryland’s untapped coal and natural-gas reserves to generate electricity and serve an energy-technology research park in Garrett County.

“Using clean-coal technology to generate energy to address our obvious energy shortage in the region would be something that we should look at investing in and helping to inspire over time,” he said.

Mr. Edgerley joined about 40 other state, county and energy-industry officials at a meeting last week to discuss the Casselman Basin Clean Coal Project, a multifaceted concept promoted by the Maryland Coal Association and state Sen. George C. Edwards, Garrett Republican.

The first step would be a coal-burning power plant a few miles south of Grantsville that would consume coal produced by the region’s mines. The suppliers would include a prospective new underground mine in the Casselman Basin, the state’s largest single remaining coal reserve, underlying an area 5 miles wide that stretches 18 miles from Deep Creek Lake north to the state line.

Proponents say some of the plant’s carbon-dioxide emissions could be injected into shale deposits 7,000 to 9,000 feet deep to sequester the greenhouse gas and help produce natural gas that is thought to be trapped in the shale.

Consultant Jerry Duckett, a retired fuel engineer from Terra Alta, W.Va., said another plant could be built at the site to convert coal into liquid fuels, including diesel and gasoline.

The coal-to-liquid plant and thecarbon dioxide sequestration project would require government funding, said officials, who expressed hope for federal funding.

Steven M. Carpenter, of the coal-industry consulting firm Marshall Miller & Associates, in Bluefield, Va., distributed a document estimating it would cost $100,000 for a basic study of carbon sequestration and $20 million for a demonstration project.

Utility and power-generation representatives were skeptical about the feasibility of building a new power plant in Western Maryland, given the economics of the electricity market. There is scant capacity for sending more electricity on existing transmission lines into the Baltimore-D.C. area, where rates are relatively high. So power from new generation would likely be sent to areas where rates are lower and less attractive to suppliers, said O. Ray Bourland, senior legislative counsel with Pepco Holdings Inc.

“The key hurdle is economics,” he said.

Pepco and Allegheny Energy are involved in efforts to build new transmission lines in the region.

Mr. Edwards said the Casselman Basin project should be viewed as part of the solution to high energy prices and constricted supplies.

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