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Coal-to-gas plant site chosen in Western Kentucky

CENTRAL CITY — Peabody Energy has chosen a site in Western Kentucky near Central City for a proposed multibillion-dollar coal-to-gas plant.

Peabody of St. Louis and ConocoPhillips, a Houston-based company, announced Tuesday that they have chosen a site in Kentucky and have started the permit process.

The companies are in a joint venture, with ConocoPhillips providing the coal gasification technology.

The companies said Tuesday they have filed an air permit with the state. Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton said the filing is the beginning of a one- to two-year permitting process.

Sutton said the cost of the plant, pitched last year as a $3 billion facility, has yet to be determined.

Peabody chose Kentucky in October 2007 after considering several sites here and in Illinois and Indiana.

"The site that we have selected is particularly attractive based on existing infrastructure," Sutton said.

She said the site has access to coal reserves, water and rail transport. The facility in Muhlenberg County would be called Kentucky NewGas.

The gasification process turns coal into clean-burning natural gas.

The plant would have less than five percent of the emissions of a traditional coal plant of the same size, the companies said in a statement.

Company officials said the plant would create 500 jobs and produce enough energy for nearly 750,000 homes. It would take four years to build.