Opinion: Appalachian Storage Hub represents 'Galaxy of Hope'

The Texas Gulf Coast region and anchor cities such as Houston are suffering from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Houston is the epicenter of the nation’s oil, natural gas and chemical industry and has become our nation’s fourth largest city. Our hearts and our prayers go out to our friends and colleagues in the oil and natural gas industry who make the Houston area their home as well as their business home.

Some in the media would portray Houston as a city without hope. We do not. We have confidence that the resiliency of the people in the Houston area and the spirit of capitalizing on what our maker has provided in the way of natural resources, realizing the potential it provides for growth and opportunity, will facilitate the resurrection of the Houston area as the vibrant corporate center, comprehensive chemical manufacturing complex and international center for the oil and gas industry it has become. Houston will survive and Houston will prosper in due course. Houston has hope. The oil and natural gas industry in West Virginia salutes the spirit of its friends and colleagues in Houston.

In terms of local interest, Houston is symbolic of what can be – what can be if a region such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio collaborates in meaningful ways to capture the shared potential of the nation’s most prolific natural gas field and, arguably, the most prolific natural gas field in the world. It is what this circumstance portends in the way of hope for West Virginia that excites us.

In the near term there is much reason for hope, much reason to be excited about West Virginia’s future. While it is true that market conditions for natural gas produced in the Appalachian Basin could certainly be better, there are transformational events being undertaken which give broad indication that the stars in West Virginia’s galaxy are about to shine brighter than ever. What are those stars? They are billions of dollars in pipeline construction projects with thousands of associated jobs which are being undertaken; and which will facilitate the delivery of Appalachian Basin natural gas to underserved markets in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and beyond in the Atlantic Seaboard area. Further, there are multiple pipeline projects underway which will transport natural gas produced in the Appalachian region to facilities on our Atlantic coast, there to be converted to liquid natural gas for shipping to Europe and other destinations.

The brightest constellation in the galaxy though, is this amazing project known as the Appalachian Storage Hub, the impact of which can be nothing short of phenomenal in terms of transformational economic development in the multi-state region of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Its concept compels the support of federal, state and local government officials. It is a catalyst for thousands of stars in the galaxy in the form of good paying jobs for West Virginians.

The Appalachian Storage Hub opens the door for those corporate giants considering multi-billion dollar investments in ethane crackers in the region from which raw materials for the chemical and plastics manufacturing industries are generated, which in turn open the door to a revitalization of the chemical industry in the Kanawha and Ohio River Valleys. It opens the door for investment in downstream manufacturing opportunities in plastics of all descriptions. It opens the door to a market for natural gas and its by-products of ethane, propane, butane and others, which in turn opens the door to billions of dollars of risk capital being invested in drilling and production activities.

All of this activity emanates from the production of natural gas with which the region has been blessed. All of this activity gives hope for West Virginia; gives hope for West Virginia families who seek good paying jobs in order to remain in our state; gives hope for economic diversification which broadens our tax base and creates revenues for both state and county governments; gives purpose for our educational systems – both K-12 and higher education – and hope for our students that there will be a truly good job in their future; and hope for state policymakers who endure the annual difficulty of piecing together a budget to provide vital services to the community they serve.

The full potential of what the West Virginia natural gas industry can provide our state can only be achieved through the collaborative efforts of industry and state leaders in the formation of governing policies which reflect the contemporary and technologically advanced natural gas industry of the 21st century. Adoption of policies which reflect today’s natural gas industry are critical to the future of our state and the sustenance of hope that is fundamental to realizing the potential of the natural gas industry which gives hope in the first instance. Natural gas is a galaxy of hope for West Virginia. Let’s let it shine!


This op-ed was authored by Marc Monteleone, president of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, and appeared in the WV Press Association newsletter. Click here to read it on the publication's website.