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Atikokan potential site for Synfuel power plant project (10/04)

Atikokan’s ad hoc energy committee met with officials from Synfuel Technologies Inc. to discuss the potential of a 210-megawatt generation station similar to the one proposed in Thunder Bay.

Atikokan’s ad hoc energy committee met with officials from Synfuel Technologies Inc. to discuss the potential of a 210-megawatt generation station similar to the one proposed in Thunder Bay.

As a result, “we submitted an RFP in August, that included Atikokan as a potential site for development, on top of the Thunder Bay (proposal),” Robert Van Patten, president of Synfuel, says.

An estimated four other locations in the northwest have been singled out in the proposal for potential generating capacity. However, Van Patten is unable to disclose any details due to confidentiality agreements. Industry officials have also shown an interest, but nothing has materialized.

He was expecting to hear from the government by Sept. 21, as to whether the submission has been accepted.

The proposed $250-million plant, powered by the gasification of petroleum coke, would be a duplicate of the one proposed in Thunder Bay, which would be comparable in size, using the same engineering and design plans, Van Patten says.

The same vendors in Thunder Bay will be in Atikokan.

The plant would be developed close to or on an abandoned mine site where an industrial park would be set up.

Discussions among both parties have been described as open and candid, with the company being very responsive to environmental concerns, recalls Garry McKinnon, executive director of the Atikokan Economic Development Corp. He says the company has learned to be more transparent with information as a result of its experiences in Thunder Bay.

Atikokan officials presented the company with advantages to locating in town, one being the switch and transmission lines that are already in place as a result of the existing coal-fired plant. Infrastructure is connected to the Hydro One corridors and the entire system is an estimated 75 kilometres from the Minnesota border, McKinnon says.

It has been noted that the proposed generating station is expected to replace their coal-fired plant that is expected to close in 2007, but McKinnon is not losing hope on the town’s primary energy tenant. He urges the government to take another look at ways in which coal-fired plants can still be a contributor to the energy market.

“I will continue to push for clean coal technology, because I believe there is room here for both,” he says.

Providing safe reliable energy for Ontario can be a reality and, in so doing, “we become part of the solution not part of the problem. That is our objective,” he says.

If the coal-fired plant closes, more than 100 jobs would be lost. Alternatively, if Synfuel were to establish itself as a tenant, it could mean many of those jobs would be saved. The best possible scenario would be to have both energy giants remain in Atikokan.

For Atikokan, with a population of 3,632, it would mean more high paying jobs, an increase in home sales and more children in classrooms, McKinnon says.

Moreover, industry seems to take a closer interest in the vicinity when access to power is so close.




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