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Innovative natural gas project gaining investors

KEATING — A company seeking to integrate natural gas production, manufacturing, and carbon dioxide capture and storage is recruiting and gaining investors.

A top KeyState Zero executive told The Express that the firm continues to work toward building a natural gas synthesis plant on private property in western Clinton County.

The project is estimated to cost $400 million while generating $260 million in annual economic income and to have 150 to 200 direct permanent jobs.

Carbon dioxide — CO2 — emissions are one of the most prominent forms of greenhouse gases produced in the United States and around the world. At increasing levels, they are believed to be detrimental to the climate and environment.

“Carbon capture and storage is part of the future to reduce those emissions and that’s where KeyState comes in,” said Perry Babb of Bellefonte, chairman and acting chief executive officer the company. “The proposed plant would be built in a region rich with natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in West Keating Township, Clinton County.”

Already on the site is a natural gas liquification plant operated by Frontier Natural Resources, who is also a partner in the KeyState project.

The firm would build the plant to produce four primary products, which when combined with carbon capture and storage, result in low carbon, ‘Blue’ products:

— Low carbon; Blue Hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and power generation.

— Low-carbon and lower cost Blue Ammonia for a range of industrial, medical, and manufacturing uses.

— Low-carbon nitrogen fertilizer, with an approximately 50% reduction in CO2 per ton of fertilizer.

— Exhaust treatment for power plants and diesel engines that eliminates 90% of harmful emissions.

“The company plans to extract natural gas and capture CO2 generated in the manufacturing process and store it on site underground and eliminate a high percentage of emissions from reaching the air,” Babb said. He explained how important carbon capture and geological storage is for the future of the Pennsylvania natural gas industry.

“We are making something with our own gas and capturing the CO2 from that manufacturing process and storing it underground. This leaves a low carbon product called ‘Blue Ammonia, which is used for industrial practices, medical practices, and agricultural practices. With carbon capture and storage, we are decreasing CO2 emissions by 50 percent per ton of ammonia. Ammonia is the combination of hydrogen along with the nitrogen from the air. Lower-carbon and lower-cost hydrogen and ammonia are part of the coming low carbon economy.”

“Pennsylvania could be a hydrogen powerhouse in 20 years,” Babb said.

“Carbon capture is not a new thing,” Babb noted.

In the southwest U.S., the storage of carbon has been going on for around 40 years. What in innovative with the company’s project is the combination of producing its own gas while storing the carbon at the same site.

“I have spoken at several energy conferences recently where most of the people were natural gas producers. They were in shock that there was actually a low-carbon future for natural gas. It is not an either-or situation. Natural gas is responsibly produced and combined with carbon capture and storage are imperative to meeting climate objectives. Combining carbon storage with drilling wells will kick off a new industry,” Babb said.

The Marcellus footprint is, in general, amenable for carbon storage in Pennsylvania. These same areas for producing gas are some of the same areas that carbon can be geographically stored. The drilling and carbon capture will be conducted on a private owned land of about 7,000 acres on the Winner tract in West Keating. The 7,000 acres is mostly boarded by state forest on the east and west.

“There are only a few cabins on the 7,000 acres and none near Keystate’s proposed plant,” Babb added.

Pennsylvania could be brought into the middle of the new low-carbon era while also being cost efficient.

Producing hydrogen from natural gas and carbon capture will be a cheaper alternative to hydrogen made from renewable energy such as the use of solar energy. Solar energy, as of now, is 5 to 10 times more expensive.

KeyState’s project is estimated to cost around $400 million. However, the total annual economic output for the state of Pennsylvania will be around $260 million. The project will also be projected to have about 150-200 permanent jobs.

“We hope to offer a variety of internships and apprenticeships and R&D through local colleges, including Penn State, Lock Haven, vo-tech schools and high schools,” Babb said.

When asked about raising money in investments for the project, Babb had this to say, “We have three phases of development. We finished the first phase. We have commitments for most of the second phase and half of the third phase. The market receptivity has been very positive.”

At the moment, only 50% of manufacturing process CO2 emissions are able to be captured. “Innovation to capture and additional 40% looks promising. With more money gained upon starting the project, more advancements will be affordable,” Babb said.

“KeyState is a joint venture of Frontier Natural Resources and KeyState Opportunity, along with several strategic industry partnerships. Their offices are in Bellefonte with project offices soon to be open in Innovation Park to facilitate the research and workforce development efforts with Penn State. Initial development and preliminary engineering are complete with more than a year of engineering and permitting to come. Then two to nearly years of construction with commercial operations projected for 2024-2025,” Babb said.

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