Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


December 1, 2013

Steady progesss

Odds of South Shore getting coke plant keep improving

ASHLAND — While nothing is a sure thing until actual construction begins, prospects of SunCoke Energy building a  new coke plant in South Shore are looking better and better all the time. In fact, it has almost reached the point it is no longer a question of if the plant will be built, but when.

 John Essman, general manager of SunCoke’s plant in Haverhill, Ohio, about 15 miles upriver from the site of the proposed coke plant, told members of the Ashland Rotary Club two weeks ago SunCoke has advanced engineering drawings of the proposed new plant and is in the process of securing environmental permits to locate the facility there. In other words, the company already is investing heavily in the proposed plant.

The South Shore plant has been under discussion for more than six years with company officials regularly meeting with state and local officials. However, the modern coke plant in Haverhill was in the talking stage for at least that long — if not longer — before construction actually began. Once the coke plant became a reality, most area residents soon became convinced it was well worth the wait.

Last July, Greenup County Fiscal Court members unanimously approved offering an incentives package to SunCoke to locate in South Shore. The 248-acre potential site for the project is along the Ohio River, two miles east of South Shore between Johnson Lane and Ky. 2538, as documents from engineering and American Electric Power studies available to the public have shown.

Essman said a potential South Shore plant would be “generally the size, maybe a little smaller than what we have at Haverhill,” he said, referring to the plant in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. That facility has 200 ovens. “It is actively in the permitting process in Kentucky and with the EPA,” said Essman, adding, “These things take a lot of time.”

According to the Kentucky Division of Air Quality, SunCoke has applied for a Title 5 permit from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. If granted, it will allow for construction and operation of the coke over battery.

Global engineering giant Jacob’s Engineering said Essman is designing the plant. “I would say it is almost in the final stages of design engineering, pending obviously the permitting process and environmental regulations,” said Essman.

“I am certainly excited about the potential there. It is a great thing for our region,” he said.

As soon as the SunCoke plant opened in Haverhill, we knew the AK Steel Coke  Plant in Ashland was doomed. The Ashland plant, which closed three years ago after 92 years of operation, was an old, “dirty” operation that polluted the air in this city for decades. On the other hand, hundreds drive by the coke plant in Haverhill without even knowing it is there. We could never support the construction of another coke plant like the closed one in  Ashland, but a plant like the one in Haverhill would be greeted with open arms.

The South Shore project is reportedly a $600 million project and would create dozens of new permanent jobs as well as hundreds of temporary construction jobs while the plant is built. In a 2011 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, SunCoke stated the plant could produce up to 1.1 million tons of coke at a potential South Shore facility.

SunCoke, which split from its parent company Sunoco Inc. and went public in 2012, has been expanding its footprint in the region over the last several years. In addition to the construction of the Haverhill plant, SunCoke opened a new 100-oven facility in Middletown, Ohio, in October 2012, which serves AK Steel. SunCoke, Essman said, has a capacity of more than 5.8 million tons of coke annually, a two-fold increase since 2006, thanks to four new plants. SunCoke also has opened new facilities in St. Louis and in Brazil in recent years.

Essman said the advanced age of many coking facilities in the U.S., along with more stringent environmental regulations, low cost of natural gas and the generation of power from heat-capturing technology, have afforded SunCoke the opportunity and incentive to invest in new coking plants.

While older coke plants like the one in Ashland are closing because they can no longer be competitive with newer coke plants, companies like SunCoke are eager to fill the void by building modern plants. Our hope is that SunCoke will continue  to expand and will make northeastern Kentucky and southern Ohio an important part of its future.

Text Only
  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO region with its own electrical company.

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

  • Dismal numbers

    The good news is that the health ratings of all but two area counties improved in the latest ranking of the state’s 120 counties. However, before we pat ourselves on the back for those improvements, the overall health of residents of counties in northeast Kentucky remains rather dismal. Yes, we are improving but we still have a long, long way to go.

    April 2, 2014

  • Kentucky losing many of its old barns

    Many of those of us who are old enough to remember traveling on two-lane highways  have fond memories of the role barns played in keeping us informed. By reading advertisements painted on roadside barns, we learned about Mail Pouch chewing tobacco and Rock City and Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn.

    March 26, 2014