New coal gasification plant planned in Morristown

New coal gasification plant planned in Morristown


6 News Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) - Construction is expected to start soon in Morristown on a new coal gasification plant. Developers hope the facility will be operational late next year.

Freedom Energy Diesel's $405 million plant in the East Tennessee Progress Center near Interstate 81 will employ about 450 people when completed. Another 150 jobs may be added in a second phase 18 months later.

New technology will be used at the plant to produce diesel fuel from coal.

Morristown Chamber of Commerce President-CEO Thom Robinson called the new plant and the jobs it brings a miracle.

"We've been praying in our community for some time," he said. "We believe in the power of prayer here, and in this case I think it's paid off."

Morristown lost nearly 600 jobs in March when furniture maker Berkline closed after 80 years in business.

Robinson said this new plant couldn't have come at a better time.

"These are projected to be very good jobs in the neighborhood of $42,000 a year, which is higher than a lot of jobs, not only in this region, but across our state," he said.

Freedom Energy Diesel officials said the new plant will be easy on the environment because they will use a closed-loop system, which means no air emissions will come from the burning of coal.

Company officials said they were attracted to the Morristown site because of the infrastructure already there, which includes easy access to the interstate. They also like the good local workforce.

"We're looking to invest in the community," said Christian Kocsher, executive vice president of public and government affairs for Freedom Energy Diesel. "We're coming up with a new way to help America get out better energy, with a lot lower -- well below EPA standards."

The city is working to have a rail spur constructed to service the industrial park. The company will also receive some undisclosed tax incentives.

Company officials say they could employ as many as 1,000 construction workers to build the plant.

The company's office headquarters will be in Knoxville.

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