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Oct 12, 2012 | 08:57 PM

What has William Penn wrought?

Tags  Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania DEP, air quality plan, Marcellus Shale gas, natural gas, power plant, Moxie Liberty LLC, Moxie Energy Moxie Patriot LLC

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Call it symmetry.

On Nov. 10th and more than 150 years after Colonel Edwin L. Drake drilled America’s first commercially successful oil well in Titusville, Pa., the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania scored a first of its own by issuing an air quality plan approval to Moxie Liberty LLC, Vienna, Va., for construction of the first new power plant in the Keystone State conceived as a result of the boom in local Marcellus Shale gas.

"With this approval, Moxie now has all that it needs from DEP to move forward with the construction of this historic facility, which will use clean, pipeline-quality, locally produced natural gas as fuel," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a statement. "It is a win-win and another landmark moment in the long history of Pennsylvania’s leadership role in producing and delivering energy for our nation."

The new plant, which will generate up to 936 megawatts of electricity, will be built on a 30-acre site in Asylum Township, Bradford County. The $800-million-plus investment consists of two power blocks, each block equipped with a combustion gas turbine and a steam turbine. Each combined cycle will be able to generate up to 468 megawatts of electricity and will also include a heat recovery steam generator and supplemental burners, the DEP said.

In operation, waste heat from the two turbine generators will be converted to steam in two heat-recovery generators and piped to the turbines. A large air-cooled condenser will convert the steam to condensed water that will be sent back to the heat recovery generators.

It’s no secret that the Keystone State is rapidly morphing into the Shale-Gas state. And Kent Morton, vice president of Moxie Energy, the parent company of Moxie Liberty LLC, tells Inner Circle why. "Pennsylvania is way out in front. They have really taken the lead," he said. "They have enacted the necessary regulations to protect the ground water and environment and they have pushed forward on taking advantage of the State’s natural resources.

"We are kind of a follow-on to that," Morton added. "This is a very large capital-intensive project that takes advantage of the resources that Pennsylvania has been producing."

The Moxie Liberty/Bradford Country project is expected to take some three years to complete. "We are probably looking at the end of 2015, beginning of 2016, just given the Pennsylvania winters and other factors," Morton said.

Moxie helped fast track the permitting process through what Morton describes as "a lot of homework and a lot of hard work. We did a number of things that allowed the process to go quickly," he recalled. "We’re using air-cooled condensers instead of extracting water from the river and we‘re using only natural gas as opposed to a backup fuel oil.

"We worked early on with DEP to understand their process. And we did a lot of research into other permits in the area, whether in New York, New Jersey, or Virginia," he said. "That way we were able to see not only how DEP approached the permitting process but what has been accepted in other jurisdictions and by the EPA."

Besides sitting literally on top of the Marcellus, the new power plant is located in an area targeted for development as an industrial/commercial corridor. "Surprisingly, there is a large substation in the area and it serves a relatively large load," Morton noted. "One of the things that got us to the site was the electrical infrastructure and the electrical infrastructure is there for a reason. It’s serving the load."

Moxie intends to keep riding Pennsylvania’s shale-gas express. Moxie Patriot LLC, a sister company of Moxie Liberty LLC and subsidiary of Moxie Energy, has applied for an air quality plan approval for a similar facility—"a twin", Morton says—to be built in Clinton Township, Lycoming County. DEP is reviewing the application.

Morton, an energy industry veteran with a resume that lists previous stints with AES Corp., Calpine Corp. and Kenetech Energy Systems, is clearly bullish on the potential of shale gas. "Everything seems to be turning toward natural gas," he said. "It’s clean, it’s efficient, it’s flexible and it’s reliable. You can’t say that about a whole lot of other generating resources. We expect to see a lot of advantage being taken of the shale gas as a U.S. nationally, domestically-produced source of energy."

Morton also expects the price of natural gas to stabilize. "You saw a lot of people rushing out into the market and putting stakes in the ground. The price is going to rise—to what level I don’t know—but it will climb," he predicted, citing "the initial rush that was out there" as pivotal to the current pricing plight of natural gas.