$6 billion plant turning natural gas to fuel planned in Pennsylvania

In this May 15, 2011 photo, hundreds of drilling pipes are stacked at a rail center in Gardendale, Texas. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

In this May 15, 2011 photo, hundreds of drilling pipes are stacked at a rail center in Gardendale, Texas. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

A Texas-based company has announced plans to build a multibillion-dollar plant on the site of a former coal mine in northeastern Pennsylvania to develop fuels from natural gas, which officials say will bring thousands of jobs to the area.

Officials announced at an online news conference Friday that Houston-based Nacero Inc. plans to invest $6 billion in the Newport Township plant, which will use gas from the Marcellus Shale reservoir, which has produced more gas than any other reservoir in the nation.

“We are going to be making gasoline, which is our largest commodity consumer product, from natural gas and renewable natural gas,” said Thomas Tureen, chairman of the board.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Formed in 2015, Nacero plans nine U.S. plants using natural gas to produce gasoline that can be used in existing vehicles. The projects will create thousands of construction and other jobs, and each of the plants will eventually employ about 450 people, Tureen said.

“We will be breaking ground for our first facility in Texas early next year. So, this is not a pipe dream, it’s not far off in the distance. We’re shovel-ready down there,” he said.

Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in the production of natural gas.

State Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerene, who hosted the news conference, said the project would reclaim “mine-scarred lands” with a revolutionary facility that would change the global gasoline market and cut the carbon footprint in the transportation sector in half.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Yudichak acknowledged “a lot of land and zoning issues” and the need for regulatory approvals as well as extension of a federal alternative fuels tax credit. He said groundbreaking was expected in the next two years with four years of construction to follow.

Tureen stressed the conversion of natural gas to gasoline is not a refining process, The (Scranton) Times-Tribune reported.

“In refining, you take a complex molecule — crude oil — and you break it down with heat and pressure. We go the opposite direction — we take a simple molecule and we build it up through a catalytic process,” he said, adding the pollutants released are greatly reduced in the process.

The resulting fuel will have no sulfur, better enabling current vehicle catalytic converters to remove precursors of ground-level ozone, which can cause health problems, he said. The plant will also convert methane, a big factor in global warming, into natural gas and then gasoline, he added.

Yudichak said Nacero commissioned a study through the University of Texas on their Texas facility, similar in scope and investment to the Pennsylvania project, and he predicted “a $25 billion ripple effect across our economy in northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal