Former R.E. Burger Plant’s Smokestack Comes Down Without a Hitch in Belmont County

DILLES BOTTOM — A sequence of detonations sent the 854-foot-tall stack at the former FirstEnergy Corp. R.E. Burger plant tumbling to the ground Friday morning in a process that demolition contractor Jim Redyke called “perfect.”

The president and CEO of PTT Global Chemical America called the stack removal an important step in his company’s efforts to bring thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of full-time jobs to the site via a planned multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker.

“We appreciate the cooperative relationship we have built with FirstEnergy as we work with all of our local, regional and statewide partners toward making this project a reality,” PTT President and CEO Toasaporn Boonyapipat said.

Officials with FirstEnergy have entered an agreement to transfer ownership of the Burger property to PTT if the Thailand-based company elects to proceed with its planned project. Before that can happen, however, FirstEnergy must complete demolition at the site, which includes removal of the remaining debris.

FirstEnergy officials hope to clean up the site and plant new grass before the end of this year.

Friday morning, numerous interested onlookers gathered for “watch parties” at VanDyne’s Family Restaurant in Dilles Bottom, as well as Grand Vue Park and Riverfront Park in Moundsville. Another group of observers stood on a hill above the Ohio 872 exit.

The first charges activated at 8:30 a.m. Within a mere 10 seconds, the concrete tower that had stood in place since the early 1980s was reduced to rubble and dust. Once the stack began to tumble, it snapped in mid-air on its plummet to the ground.

“It was perfect,” said Jim Redyke, president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Dykon Explosive Demolition, which performed the work for FirstEnergy. “It went just as we planned.”

Redyke said contractors used 160 pounds of dynamite on the stack and an additional 400 pounds on the adjacent boiler house building. Contractors removed excess concrete and rebar during the past few weeks in preparation for the explosion. Dust suppression systems consisting of large fans and water sprayers surrounded the buildings to help contain the concrete and dust particles resulting from the fall.

Last year, officials with PTT and JobsOhio — the private development corporation established by Gov. John Kasich — confirmed they hoped to build the giant ethane cracker on the Burger site and some additional acreage to the southwest owned by Ohio-West Virginia Excavating.

“(This) is an important milestone that supports future development of the Burger facility,”FirstEnergy Executive Vice President James H. Lash said Friday. “We are working … to support use of this property for a proposed cracker plant that will bring a vital manufacturing base to (Belmont County) — and many employment and business development opportunities to the region.”

FirstEnergy officials removed the Burger stack for potential new development.

“This project is a top priority for JobsOhio. The ongoing demolition and remediation at the former Burger power plant is a positive signal and will position the site well for redevelopment should PTTGC America decide to move forward,” said David Mustine, JobsOhio senior adviser. “The agreement between FirstEnergy and PTTGC America is another step in the right direction, but much work needs to be completed prior to the company’s final investment decision, which we expect in early 2017.”

PTT spokesman Dan Williamson said PTT is now awaiting permits from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to proceed with the cracker project.

“Hundreds of permanent jobs will be created once the plant is running. Additionally, a complex of this size will no doubt create a multiplying economic effect in the nearby communities,”Williamson said. “The petrochemical complex will employ a wide range of professions.”

Previously operated by the former Ohio Edison Co., the coal-fired Burger plant became part of the FirstEnergy Corp. generation fleet via a corporate merger in 1997. The electricity generator operated from 1944-2011, according to the company, when it closed as part of FirstEnergy’s efforts to comply with more stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

From The Intelligencer Wheeling News Register  |  August 3, 2016