Baard Energy LLC of Vancouver, Wash., wants to build a $4 billion facility in Wellsville, about 50 miles south of Youngstown, near the Ohio River that would mix Appalachian coal with wood and other waste to make ultra-clean synthetic jet and diesel fuel for the military. The process was first used extensively by the German military 60 years ago.

Though the Defense Department is the primary target, Baard also wants commercial clients that would buy diesel fuel, said Steve Dopuch, vice president of development.

"We have spent a lot of time with them, explaining what it would take to develop a plant like this," he said. "We would love to sell them fuels, but it's not the only way this would work."

Ohio River Clean Fuels would be built on 650 acres. It would use about 5 billion tons of Ohio coal a year and more than 2 billion tons of wood waste, switch grass and other bio-wastes - even chicken manure - that would be converted into 50,000 barrels per day of diesel and jet fuel and naphtha, a chemical for the plastics industry. The military uses 375,000 barrels of fuel per day.

The four-year construction project would begin next year and generate 4,000 construction jobs, mostly in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Northeast Ohio, with a payroll of nearly $1 billion, according to an analysis by TeamNEO economic development consultants.

The total number of permanent jobs in the first year of the plant's operation probably would exceed 700, including 250 engineers and mining jobs.

Baard has been working with the state and Columbiana County Port Authority, which began building a $20 million port in Wellsville in 2000. The port was set up so that shippers can transfer among barge, rail and trucking. It already moves 15 million tons of goods per year.

The Pentagon, looking to create a secure source of fuel insulated from global tensions, still is testing synthetic fuels and must certify they won't damage jet engines before signing any purchase contracts. All branches of the military are testing the fuels and Air Force tests are being done at bases, including Wright-Patterson in Dayton.

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