Tyler County mentioned as possible natural gas storage site

PARKERSBURG — A potential site for an underground natural gas storage facility is in Tyler County and local officials will push for its development in light of the $83.7 billion investment deal announced Thursday with a Chinese company.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Eric Peters, executive director of the Tyler County Development Authority.

From President Trump’s trade mission to China, officials on Thursday announced a memorandum of understanding was reached with China Energy Investment Corp. Ltd. to invest $83.7 billion over 20 years in West Virginia with the focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives. It’s not binding, but is the first step.

The underground geological formations in the Bens Run area of Tyler County are within the three top sites for an underground storage facility in the creation of the Appalachian Storage Hub, Jody Murphy, executive director of the Pleasants County Development Authority, said. Bens Run is located just across the border with Tyler County.

“We want the storage hub up here,” said Murphy, who said he is ready, willing and able to promote the project.

“We are willing to do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “This is not an ‘us and them.’ This is a ‘we project.'”

China Energy was created in the merger of the Shenhua Group and China Guodian Corp.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in China by West Virginia Commerce Secretary H. Wood Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen. It was witnessed by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The investment in West Virginia was the largest among projects in U.S. corporations and other states, which total $250 billion, the West Virginia Department of Commerce announced early Thursday morning.

The storage hub is the key to maximizing development in the petrochemical industry, said Brian Anderson, director of the West Virginia University Energy Institute. The infrastructure at present does not exist.

“We need the infrastructure to support a robust industry,” he said.

In 2016, WVU and Shenhua in a partnership established West Virginia as the priority area for its investments in the United State including power plants fueled by natural gas, shale gas development and clean coal technology.

The university in August released a study from the geological surveys in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio of formations where natural gas liquids from wells could be stored underground.

In general terms, the three potential areas for the storage hub in West Virginia are described as the northern, central and southern. The northern area is in the Northern Panhandle where there are deep salt formations at 6,000 feet. The southern includes Mason and Jackson Counties and the Kanawha Valley.

The central area is from the base of the panhandle southerly from Wetzel toward Tyler and Pleasants counties, Anderson said. The geology includes the deep salt formations and limestone formations at 2,000 feet, he said.

The investment in West Virginia could include two power plants fueled by natural gas, facilities for methanol, a plant for biodegradable products and an initial investment of $4 billion in the Appalachian Storage Hub. The first phase investment will be $4 billion and $20 billion in the second phase.

Thousands of construction jobs could be created, perhaps tens of thousands in permanent jobs created through storage hub.

The $83.7 billion far exceeds the value of all goods and services produced in West Virginia every year, Anderson said.

Determining how many jobs is difficult, Peters said. It may not be known until years later, he said.

However, “It would be substantial,” Peters said.

“Successes like this give our people hope and encourage other companies to look at the Shale Crescent Region (in the Mid-Ohio Valley) for expansion,” said Greg Kozera of Shale Crescent USA.

The investment will have far reaching implications, including additional investments from a variety of downstream industries, Kozera said.

“We believe it was a matter of time before something really big like this happened in our region, which is sitting on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S.A. as a result of our geographic proximity to the Marcellus and Utica Shales,” he said.

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