PEYTON NEELY – Special to The News and Sentinel
HANNIBAL, Ohio — A new natural gas-fueled power plant is expected to fill the site once occupied by Ormet Corp.
The property, in Hannibal in Monroe County, is now known as the Center Port Terminal and will soon be the site of the Hannibal Port Power Project.
“Not just people in Monroe County will benefit from this but those needing jobs in Washington County and other surrounding counties in Ohio as well as across the river into West Virginia will benefit as well,” said Janet Nelson, executive assistant for the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority. “It creates sort of a snowball effect of job opportunities for our area.”
Upon completion, the new plant is projected to bring in 20 full-time jobs to the region. During construction, between 300 and 400 jobs are expected to be available.
Ormet employed more than 1,000 employees between the two partnered plants in Hannibal.
The developer for the project, Mark Barry, of Ohio River Partners Shareholder LLC, said the power plant could attract other projects to the area.
“I expect things to be moving on the river,” he said.
Ormet ceased operations in October of 2013. Employees were out of the building completely by the end of July 2014. The company announced it would close its plant along the Ohio River after state utility regulators rejected portions of its proposed deal for reducing electricity costs.
In late 2013, Ormet said the decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio made it impossible for the company to escape bankruptcy. The plant was once the largest employer in the region.
The site was purchased by Niagara Worldwide, now called Hannibal Development LLC. This company submitted the highest bid for the bankrupt Ormet Corp.’s assets and paid $25.25 million for the facility in late 2014. Since then, the company has been searching for a developer to work with the site and make it into something useful for the area.
“We were constantly looking for operators and manufacturers in the gas and oil industry to fill that space,” said Eric Spirtas, owner/president of Hannibal Development LLC. “Since Hannibal Development LLC has owned the property, we wanted to find a way to bring jobs to our area of any kind. Any of the developers we looked at would bring in jobs that require power plants.”
Monroe County Commissioner Carl Davis said that with the abundance of natural gas in the area, it’s only appropriate to bring in a new power plant.
“With the cracker plant going in Belmont County, there’s raw material here for future development,” he said. “Twenty jobs isn’t a lot but that’s 20 jobs we didn’t have.”
The power plant will be a 485-megawatt combine cycle power generation project. It will use local natural gas, sent to the plant by local pipelines, to create the energy, and water from the nearby Ohio River to cool the turbines.
Prior to construction, several environmental permits will be filed, with all required permits set to be completed by September. Construction is predicted to begin later this year. If construction remains on schedule, the plant is expected to be operating by 2020.
“Looking at the tax base alone we lost a lot of that when the Ormet plant closed,” said Davis. “Hopefully this picks it back up.”
The northwest part of Washington County suffered a loss when the AEP Muskingum River Plant closed in 2014. Nelson said it’s critical for the area to get more gas-powered plants in the area.
“This area could support up to 10 more gas-powered plants,” she said. “They’re plants that run quietly and benefit our area.”
The planned gas-powered plant in Hannibal is a $500 million investment.
“We have two gas-powered plants in Washington County and they’re doing really well,” said Jim Black, executive director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority. “Although nothing is confirmed, there are plans for more of the plants to make their way into Washington County. It makes a lot of sense to make use of that area because of the local gas supply and the transmission capacity.”