Martins Ferry Times Leader. Citing proximity to the potential PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker and the Mountaineer NGL Storage project, Bryce Custer said as many as 54 barges filled with pellets or other products could one day line the Ohio River next to the former Kammer Plant in Marshall County.

Custer represents Buffalo, N.Y.-based Frontier Industrial as a petrochemical and energy services specialist working in West Virginia and Ohio. Frontier is the same company redeveloping sites once owned by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. in Mingo Junction, in addition to several hundred acres of property which housed the operations of the former Weirton Steel Corp.

“We have three fantastic properties right along the Ohio River,” Custer said. “With the Royal Dutch Shell ethane cracker to the north (near Monaca, Pa.) and PTT to the south, the Wheeling, Steubenville and Weirton areas are about to take off very quickly.”

Although Custer declined to say how much Frontier has invested in the three sites, the company paid $20 million for the Mingo mill once RG Steel filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Work is ongoing at all three locations.

“We are in the process of demolishing most of it,” Custer said of the Kammer site. “We’ll keep the buildings we can make use of.”

Custer said the former power plant features nine river barge cells, each of which he said can hold six barges.

“This is a great area for a facility that would utilize a lot of barges,” he said. “It’s so close to the PTT site.”

Custer also said the 58-acre plant already has both infrastructure and required permits to pump fresh water from the river, which he said should make it even more attractive for redevelopment. Another positive factor is the railway connection, he added.

The Kammer plant opened in the late 1950s to provide electricity for the nearby Ormet Corp. aluminum smelter across the Ohio River. The aluminum facility closed in 2013, while efforts to remove and redevelop portions of that property are also ongoing. Only the tallest of the Kammer stacks, which towers to 900 feet, remained in operation as the plant ran in recent years, while the two shorter towers have not been in use since the late 1970s, AEP officials said.

Officials with AEP shut down the Kammer Plant in June 2015. The Columbus, Ohio-based utility company sold the site to Frontier for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

“We’re going to take down the stacks, but we don’t have a time frame for it,” Custer said. “We have to work with state regulatory officials on that matter.”

Frontier subsidiary Mingo Junction Steel Works continues redevelopment work at the former Wheeling-Pitt site along Ohio 7 in Jefferson County. Some of the Mingo facility has been razed and sold for scrap, but the hot strip mill and electric arc furnace are now owned by the ACERO Junction group.

“We have 72 acres available there,” Custer said of the Mingo property. “It is serviced by two different railroad lines. The potential is infinite.”

Across the river, Custer said work is ongoing in Weirton. He said there are a total of 1,300 acres available, but only about 300 of which are contiguous. The 100,000-square-foot building at 1400 Main St. in Weirton is now home to the Bidell Gas Compression operation, which officials said will employ dozens of workers.

Custer said this could be just the beginning.

“We really envision the Weirton facility as being a growth facility for multiple companies,” he said. “And that includes Browns Island.”

Browns Island is positioned in the middle of the river, just north of Weirton’s Half Moon Industrial Park. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the soil on the island — which housed Weirton Steel’s coke plant until 1982 — is contaminated with benzene, toluene, xylene and cyanide.

Still, Custer said officials believe so strongly in the property that they commissioned a study regarding the feasibility of connecting it to Ohio via railroad bridge.

“When things take off here, people are going to be looking for sites. We are working as quickly as we can to get ready for it,” Custer added.

By Casey Junkins

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