June 30, 2008

Gypsum Plant Finds Opportunity, Supply in W.Va.

By Harris, Linda

A $100 million plant in Marshall County is turning fly-ash from a nearby coal-burning power plant into gypsum for wallboard, keeping it from being landfilled and at the same time creating jobs for area residents.

The 750,000-square foot plant is owned by CertainTeed Corp., a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain. It's the company's 13th gypsum plant in the United States.

CertainTeed CEO Peter Dachowski said the plant's proximity to American Electric Power's Kammer-Mitchell power plant was "a driving force" behind their decision to locate in Marshall County: The operation uses synthetic gypsum, a byproduct of Kammer-Mitchell's coal desulfurization process, to manufacture wallboard. It's transported from Kammer-Mitchell to CertainTeed's plant via a two- mile-long conveyor belt.

"It's a big shot in the arm," Marshall County Commissioner Jason Padlow said. "It's something we worked on a long time. I think we're going to be able to feed off this. I really do."

Padlow said the plant is a good fit economically: High-sulfur coal from Marshall County mines feeds the power plant, which spent billions equipping its smokestacks with a state-of-the-art flue gas scrubbing system to remove the sulfur, meeting state and federal emissions regulations. It's the fly ash produced in the desulfurization process that will now feed CertainTeed's gypsum operation.

"It's very beneficial to us that they tied that investment with AEP," Padlow said. "What they do here is belt it over; a lot of their gypsum plants around the world have to have their gypsum trucked in."

The plant employs 75 people right now, though its work force potentially could swell to 200 within a couple years. Padlow said many jobs are tied to the plant indirectly as well.

"It's a beautiful day for Marshall County," he said. "A huge opportunity. These are good paying jobs, something people can raise a family on."

Copyright State Journal Corporation Jun 6, 2008

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