West Virginia, Ohio senators introduce bill to study ethane storage

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have joined forces with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to co-sponsor a bill that would study whether an underground ethane storage hub could be created in central Appalachia.

The Appalachian Ethane Storage Hub Study Act of 2017 was sponsored by the three senators, Capito announced Wednesday, May 11.

“Making the most of our energy and manufacturing potential is critical to driving economic growth and development in states like West Virginia and across the country,” Capito said. “The Appalachian Ethane Storage Hub Study Act will help us figure out the best way to utilize the region’s resources and improve our infrastructure.

"Not only will this legislation inform future projects and policies, but it will also help attract private dollars to ensure Appalachia remains an important player in America’s energy and manufacturing strategy,” Capito said.

Officials in the office of West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher have been in discussions with officials in Ohio and other neighboring states about how to set up ancillary industries to take advantage of the Marcellus and Utica gas booms. Talks have included cooperation to build ethane crackers and subterranean ethane storage.

Thrasher said the idea is to allow West Virginia and surrounding states to benefit from the gas boom beyond shipping natural gas outside state borders to be processed and distributed in other states.

“I am proud to support the Appalachian Storage Hub because it will help attract significant manufacturing investments to the region, create well-paying jobs, and boost the region’s economy while also providing the national security benefits associated with this critical infrastructure,” said Manchin. “Our region’s access to natural gas and natural gas liquids, like ethane and propane, combined with our proximity to manufacturing markets in the Midwest and the East Coast make West Virginia an ideal location for a storage hub.

"This bill and resulting study are important steps to realizing the potential this hub would have for our region. I intend to pursue additional legislation that Congress can pass to support this vital project and create jobs for West Virginia and the Appalachian region,” he said.

According to Capito's office, the legislation would direct the secretary of energy and the secretary of commerce, in consultation with other relevant federal agencies, to conduct a feasibility study of establishing a subterranean ethane storage and distribution hub in Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville shale plays. The study would include an analysis of potential locations based on favorable geology, economic feasibility and benefits, infrastructure and proximity to production sites and potential industrial consumers. As a result, the bill would:

  • Demonstrate the economic potential of a subterranean ethane storage and distribution hub
  • Inform future federal energy and infrastructure policy in the area, and
  • Encourage private investment in a region facing unique energy and manufacturing challenges.

“According to a recent study, southeastern Ohio and the surrounding region could see billions in private investment in new petrochemical manufacturing by 2025, Portman said. "This legislation is a first step in the process of making the potential plans a reality by ensuring that the region has the infrastructure in place to meet anticipated demands."

This article was authored by Rusty Marks for The State Journal. Click here to read it on the publication's website.