Sights Still Set On an Appalachian Storage Hub

A lot has transpired in the last year since the 2016 Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference. A lot has changed. We have a new president, a new state governor and a final investment decision made on a cracker plant to be built in Monaca, Pennsylvania. But one thing has not changed: our desire and commitment to build a storage hub in the Appalachian Basin.

Our quad-state region continues to be primed for this opportunity, which would safely house separated natural gas liquids as a built-for-purpose facility to distribute critical raw materials to consumers across Appalachia’s broader region.

It is in the best interest of our nation to assure that geographic diversification of the petrochemical industry is secured and that discrete manufacturing and energy intensive industries grow. Putting a significant portion of our economic drivers at the risk of foreseeable natural disasters in the Gulf Coast alone can have both short- and long-term strategic implications. And we have a duty to do all we can to protect our critical manufacturing base in the United States, as it is of vital importance to our nation. We can reduce our collective risk by taking advantage of the alternatives, versus a singular U.S. Gulf Coast-centric approach. And alternatives do in fact exist. They exist through the Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville shales.

However, we cannot take advantage of this shale opportunity without the necessary infrastructure to support the demands and needs of the heartland of our country. The infrastructure requirements associated with new build-outs, which will allow this diversification, must be delivered by multiple parties. We will need cooperation and support from the federal, state and local governments, private investment and existing business platforms.

The infrastructure associated with a fully functioning and successful build-out would tie the hub to a six-pack of pipe, which would potentially contain methane, ethane, ethylene, propane, propylene and chlorine. We anticipate it utilizing the corridors naturally created in the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, spanning from Monaca to Charleston to Catlettsburg, Kentucky. This would facilitate the safe, environmentally sound and efficient delivery of raw materials and intermediates to the region’s most viable manufacturing locations.

And, for those who think this topic is stale or that it is simply not realistic, think again.

Pennsylvania recently published a report confirming the impacts that ethane crackers and their downstream activities will have on economies in Appalachia. In the coming weeks, this will be again confirmed by additional reports from within the basin and by the American Chemistry Council, which also will discuss the opportunities for creating this storage facility — an Appalachian storage hub.

And there is no doubt that the upcoming Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference in Morgantown will create a tremendous platform from which we can, together, further our understanding of how to maximize lasting value based on this opportunity.

Steve Hedrick is president and chief executive officer at MATRIC (Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center), a strategic innovation company located in South Charleston.

This article was authored by Steve Hedrick and appeared in the State Journal. Click here to read it on the publication's website.