A-Plant

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant is located near the village of Piketon.

PIKETON — An Oklahoma-based gas company is looking to set-up operations in the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, following an announcement earlier this week from the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative.

On Monday, Newpoint Gas, LLC, signed a letter of intent and right of first refusal to purchase land on the 3,777-acre site.

As Wiley Rhodes, CEO of Newpoint Gas, told the News Watchman conversations have been ongoing since 2020 between his company and local parties, such as SODI and the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service regarding the “Green Energy and Manufacturing” Initiative or “GEM.”

Per a release, this initiative is a bipartisan, labor-focused, functioning public-private partnership that is the result of a 12-year effort to establish a transformational economic development strategy coordinated under the leadership of SODI and OU.

The PORTS site, which operated from 1954 to 2001, has mostly sat vacant in this millennium with exception for the ongoing cleanup efforts. With this project, Rhodes sees an opportunity to reverse that.

“It was an opportunity to be able to utilize what has been there for decades,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

SODI Executive Director Steve Shepherd shared similar remarks in a released statement, calling the agreement with Newpoint Gas a “monumental step.”

“By reindustrializing the former PORTS facility, we will be a nation-leading example – right here in Southern Ohio – of transforming a federal liability into a taxpayer asset that increases economic stability in struggling areas,” he said.

An exact timeline for when this development will hit the pavement is still in the works, as the proper paperwork needs to be in-place first. What is known currently is what that new facility will be.

This reindustrialization will transition the A-plant into a power generation facility fueled by clean hydrogen. This facility will operate as an Integrated Energy System and Manufacturing complex, meaning it would cut down on wasted energy and be more efficient.

From power generation, manufacturing, and transportation, the complex is projected to create high-paying union jobs.

SODI counsel Kevin Shoemaker said the complex will look to take advantage of the high number of trained individuals already working on the site.

“There would hopefully be a transition of folks on the cleanup process towards the new jobs that would be created here,” he said.

For additional training, Rhodes said his company would continue to work alongside SODI, OU, and local labor organizations.

Among those groups is the Ohio American Federation of Labor-Congress of International Organizations.

“Organized labor has been working closely with industry and community leaders with the goal of creating good-paying union jobs for workers in the region,” said Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO in a released statement. “As this venture moves forward, we will call for government support to ensure this project is transformative in a part of our state that has all too often been left behind.”

Shoemaker projected a loose timeline of three years to get business moving at the plant. This means the ongoing cleanup would coincide with the Newpoint Gas development.

As of the latest, demolition of the X-326 process building was approximately 60% complete according to acting Department of Energy Site Lead Jeremy Davis.

While structural demolition of the process building, one of three on-site, has an estimated completion by the end of 2022, the timeline extends all the way to 2035 for the entire cleanup.

Contact Patrick Keck at pkeck@newswatchman.com or by phone at 740-947-2149, ext. 300431 and follow him on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

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