MET 022419 Amonia Plant Aerial

Tribune-Star file photo/Austen Leake

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed a bill for a pilot project that eventually could allow Wabash Valley Resources LLC to open a $450 million project to produce anhydrous ammonia and store carbon byproducts underground at the former SG Solutions plant adjacent to Duke Energy's Wabash River Generating Station. 

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed a bill to allow a pilot project for underground storage of up to 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide at West Terre Haute.

The governor's office released this statement:

"Underground storage of carbon dioxide is a great economic opportunity for Vigo County with the potential to create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs.

"While more than seven other states have adopted similar projects, this has never been done in Indiana, so I will direct the Department of Natural Resources, supported by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, to complete all the diligence necessary and put a regulatory framework in place before naming an operator for the site."

Senate Enrolled Act 442 gives the go ahead for the project in conjunction with an anhydrous ammonia plant at the former SG Solutions Coal Gasification plant.

At the same time, it sends the issue to a legislative panel for study this summer.

The act's sponsor, Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, said the review will be “all encompassing” and include liability issues.

Wabash Valley Resources plans to inject carbon dioxide into underground rock formations as part of a $450 million project that includes an anhydrous ammonia fertilizer plant. The complex would mean 600 construction jobs and 120 permanent jobs.

The project also needs approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a step that could take years.

Nalin Gupta, the company's managing partner, said in a statement the carbon capture plan addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is consistent with federal energy policy.

The University of Illinois has secured a $10.2 million U.S. Energy Department grant to develop a plan to use the stored carbon dioxide for enhanced recovery of oil resources.

Citizens Action Coalition and other groups raised environmental concerns, including the potential impact on groundwater. Executive Director Kerwin Olson said those concerns are compounded by above ground storage of 7.2 million tons of coal ash at the adjacent site of Duke Energy's former Wabash River Generating Station.

Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.