Corky DeMarco: Natural gas exports will help W.Va.


By Corky DeMarco

Across the country, natural gas development is giving new life to economic recovery and revitalizing entire regions, and West Virginia is no exception.

Our state is fortunate enough to be a part of the two of the richest resource basins in the world, and with an ample supply of natural gas reserves, the current international demand for U.S. natural gas presents an opportunity for West Virginia to obtain increased natural gas investment and stimulate our economy.

The ongoing surge in shale gas production in the United States has turned our nation’s long term energy outlook on its head.

It was only about five years ago when most of the experts were expecting the United States to become one of the largest importers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the form in which natural gas is shipped overseas. Now, many of those very same plants that were built to receive LNG are being retrofitted for export and new facilities are on the drawing board.

For energy rich West Virginia, the build out of a more expansive natural gas infrastructure would only be a good thing.

Energy consultants at IHS estimate that nearly $3 trillion in capital expenditures will take place between 2012 and 2035 in shale natural gas activity – the vast majority of it private capital. That is private investment that will flow directly into states involved with natural gas extraction, production and shipment.

For example, Dominion Resources Inc. is considering a $2 billion investment in a 450-mile-long natural gas transmission pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia to southern North Carolina. It would go into service by the end of 2018 and carry production from the Marcellus and Utica shale gas fields to market. The construction of this pipeline will mean valuable job creation and state and local tax revenues that we cannot afford to pass up.

The Mountain State has a long history of supplying energy resources to U.S. markets, including natural gas. As one of the top 10 producers of natural gas in the U.S, producing around 539.9 trillion cubic feet of gas in 2013, taking advantage of an opportunity to expand our markets and in turn bolster this booming industry should be our number one focus.

Understandably, there is a growing chorus of support in Congress to modernize our antiquated regulatory system for LNG exports to reflect the serious shift in our energy landscape.

Last month, the House passed H.R. 6, a bipartisan-supported bill to require the Department of Energy to approve of liquefied natural gas LNG export applications within 90 days. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Congressional representatives from across the country have been lending their support to this LNG export issue. With only seven applications approved to date and 24 still in the queue, it is imperative that our representatives in Congress stand firmly behind this bill.

The United States is just now in the early stages of an historic transformation to natural gas abundance and long term energy security. This abundance is fueling an energy and manufacturing surge at home, while providing more than enough surplus for LNG exports.

We need Congress and the White House to move expeditiously to streamline and modernize the regulatory process so we can get on with the work of building out this export capability.

DeMarco is executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

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