CHARLESTON — Developments on the Appalachian Storage and Trade Hub during the past year and the energy industry’s standing took front and center Wednesday at the 2019 winter meeting of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGA).
IOGA President Brett Loflin said the meeting most likely set a record in terms of the number of attendees, who gave various presentations throughout the two-day conference ranging from technology to new businesses coming to the area.
“We’re very excited about the future of the industry in this state,” Loflin said. “The Appalachian Storage Hub, I think, has limitless possibilities. I really do think oil and natural gas industry is the best hope for West Virginia.”
Loflin said the Kanawha Valley was once a hotbed of chemical industrial activity. While it is becoming so again, he said the prospect of new ethylene cracker plants in West Virginia — similar to the one under construction by Shell in Pennsylvania’s Beaver County — can open the door to new manufacturing industries and other economic possibilities.
He added that the support of politicians at the state and federal level make the hub a promising project.
Gov. Jim Justice addressed the hundreds of attendees and congratulated the industry for bringing 38,000 new jobs to the state during the past few years. He also stressed the need for business-friendly policies to coexist with environmental protection.
As for the storage hub and pipeline projects, Justice said he was confident these projects are going to create in-state opportunities and not just funnel valuable resources out of the state with no payoff.
“I want jobs here,” the governor said. “We can have our cake and eat it here, too. The hub, it ensures our security forever the way I see it.”
Justice said the No. 1 economic focus of his office is the hub. On Tuesday, Justice and members of his administration met with an outside party interested in investing in the hub, he said.
China Energy had issued a memorandum of understanding to invest $83 billion in the state’s natural gas industry. However, that was before the trade war between China and the United States and the departure of former Department of Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher. While some have remained optimistic on the deal continuing, actual details have been scarce with some engaging in legal battles to obtain more information.
Justice said he planned to meet with the prospective investor again Wednesday but did not say who this new partner was or where they were from.
However, Loflin said this is a normal practice since the deal is still in development and acting partners aren’t announced prematurely. Nevertheless, he was pleased with the news and said the storage hub’s success was never going to be determined by Chinese investment alone.
“We have federal guaranteed loans that have brought businesses to be associated with the storage hub and complex,” he said. “All of that is still going on because we have a lot of domestic funding we can rely on.”
Loflin said a project of this magnitude is bound to attract a lot of investors.
As for the industry outside of the hub, Loflin expressed the need to get natural gas fired power plants operational since West Virginia only gets about 1 percent of its power from such facilities while Pennsylvania and Ohio generate more than 30 percent of their power through natural gas.
Collectively, he said consumers have saved billions of dollars as cheaper natural gas has surged to the forefront, and the country’s greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing as well thanks to this switchover.
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