Energy industry helps fuel bright future for North Central West Virginia residents

CLARKSBURG — West Virginia has abundant fossil energy and renewable resources, impacting a slew of businesses and fueling economic development and sustainability in 2018 and well beyond.

Coal is the state’s most abundant mined product. The state has abundant hydroelectric power potential as well, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. With the development of production from the Marcellus and Utica shales in West Virginia, natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids are increasingly contributing to the state’s energy economy.

And that’s happening everywhere across the North Central region, including in Doddridge County.

“MarkWest has indeed been expanding in Doddridge County at our Sherwood Complex. It began operations in October 2012, and by the end of 2016 was the single largest gas-processing complex in the Northeast, with six cryogenic processing facilities totaling 1.2 billion cubic feet per day of capacity,” said Jamal Kheiry, spokesman for Marathon Petroleum Corp.

“In 2017, through a joint venture between MarkWest and Antero Midstream, we added three more gas-processing plants with capacities of 200 million cubic feet per day each, and two more with capacities of 200 million cubic feet per day each are currently under construction at Sherwood through the joint venture. These new units support development of Antero Resources’ extensive Marcellus Shale acreage in West Virginia,” Kheiry said.

The Sherwood Complex now consists of nine plants, with a total processing capacity of 1.8 billion cubic feet per day. The complex also includes a 40,000 barrel per day de-ethanization unit, which separates ethane from natural gas. There is also the potential to develop up to six additional processing facilities at Sherwood and at a future expansion site. Separate from the joint venture with Antero, MarkWest is also building a 20,000-barrel-per-day ethane fractionation plant,” Kheiry said.

Doddridge County Commission President Greg Robinson said Sherwood and other oil and gas industries in the county obviously help the service stations and the restaurants.

“There are a lot of people who have put in campsites around the county. Most of those are full now. When you add the people staying at the campsites, the grocery stores and hardware stores also benefit. We haven’t had any new restaurants open lately, but very well may. With the new pipelines gearing up, that could very well happen,” Robinson said.

Economists have indicated that the economic impact on an area when a new company opens is about seven times the annual payroll, he said.

“As for the county, we’re kind of heavily into infrastructure, along with the potential to build new structures, and all of that helps the local economy. We’ve got one waterline extension that will start in the spring and another in the grant process and another two that are pending. There’s a lot of things that are potential and on the drawing board and not finalized,” Robinson said.

“The number keeps growing of people employed in the ancillary businesses of the energy companies in our county. The new pipelines will require the hiring of local workers, as well,” he said.

The industrial sector is the largest end-use energy-consuming sector in West Virginia. Mining, including coal, crude oil, and natural gas extraction, is a large and energy-intensive part of the state’s economy. The energy-intensive chemical, primary metals, petroleum-refining, and coal industries are also major economic activities in the state, the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

Crude oil production in West Virginia, almost all of it from the Marcellus shale, has nearly tripled since 2012.

Harrison County Commission President Ron Watson said the impact from oil and gas, whether short-lived or not, is very evident with a drive toward Shinnston.

“You can look at the packed motels, camper sites, restaurants and hotels. It’s starting to pick up again,” Watson said.

West Virginia is the ninth-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation and the second-largest coal producer in the nation.

West Virginia is among the top three states in the nation in recoverable coal reserves at producing mines, and the state accounts for more than one-tenth of the nation’s coal production. Coal has been an important part of West Virginia’s economy for more than a century.

Coal-fired power plants account for nearly all of West Virginia’s electricity generation, and nine of the 10 largest power plants in the state, by capacity and generation, are coal-fired.

Acting Lewis County Economic Development Director Cindy Whetsell said the oil and gas industry provides a large portion of the county’s operating budget.

“The impact is felt in retail and the hotel-motel industry. It trickles down to local owner-operated establishments,” Whetsell said. “Lewis County will see revenue derived from the new pipeline coming through. There will be jobs available. It’s going to stimulate the local economy by the increased activity. Our hotel-motel services will be greatly impacted.”

She said there has been minimal activity so far with the upcoming Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“In talking with businesses and landowners and the companies themselves, it is going to impact the county very soon,” Whetsell said.

This article was authored by Darlene J. Swiger for WV News. Click here to read it on the publication's website.