These are encouraging times for West Virginia.
After coping with many ups and downs, West Virginia is moving ahead. The state is forging a future where more people start new businesses, raise their families and put down roots in the Mountain State.
Getting there won’t come easy, and it will be up to West Virginians to push the current positive socioeconomic trends out into the next decade and beyond.
But one piece of the puzzle is falling into place: reliable domestic energy in the form of abundant, low cost, clean-burning natural gas. To put it into perspective, over the next 10 years, natural gas production in the Appalachian region is expected to grow by approximately 76 percent.
Companies like TransCanada Corporation (Columbia Gas Transmission’s new parent company) are investing billions of dollars on new natural gas storage and pipeline infrastructure throughout the Appalachia region.
Over the three-year period between 2016 and 2018, TransCanada’s investment in critically needed energy infrastructure within West Virginia will eclipse $3 billion. That means the Mountain State and surrounding region are gaining unparalleled access to a reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy source.
These new pipelines represent jobs, both directly in the employment of thousands of workers to construct the new pipelines and then operate them safely and reliably, and indirectly in the local economic development this level of investment will inevitably drive.
There is no debate: pipelines support economic development and new jobs. As construction ramps up in West Virginia, TransCanada will employ thousands of workers to construct these new lines and will pay $54 million in property taxes annually to counties in the state by 2020.
As West Virginia continues to diversify its industrial base of chemicals, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and various high-tech initiatives, the attractive supply of energy the natural gas sector provides becomes increasingly important.
One piece of our current natural gas buildout in the region wrapped up on Jan. 1, 2018, as TransCanada welcomed the New Year by flowing gas on our newest pipeline: Leach XPress. This 160-mile, 36-inch diameter project begins in Marshall County and travels through Southeast Ohio, providing a critical new outlet for gas produced in Appalachia.
Leach XPress is just the first of several important TransCanada projects that will help continue building out West Virginia’s natural gas transmission system, transporting gas to key markets in this region and the Southeast.
Mountaineer XPress, the largest project in TransCanada’s U.S. portfolio, involves construction of 170 miles of large diameter pipeline in West Virginia. Included in the project’s $2.6 billion scope are three new compressor stations in Doddridge, Calhoun and Jackson counties, which will bring millions of dollars in property taxes and indirect local economic development.
Mountaineer Xpress will add about 2.7 billion cubic feet a day of capacity to our system, or enough to serve one-eighth of the total residential and commercial natural gas demand for the entire U.S. The project is also estimated to have over a $2 billion economic impact in West Virginia from planning through construction.
The WB XPress project will significantly improve the service and flexibility of natural gas delivery in Virginia and West Virginia. The project will see the addition of new pipeline to our existing WB pipeline, two new compressor stations and the replacement of 26 miles of existing pipeline to increase capacity in the region by an incremental 1.3 billion cubic feet per day.
Finally, our Eastern Panhandle Expansion project will provide a link to Mountaineer Gas Company in Morgan County. This 3.5-mile, 8-inch diameter pipeline may seem relatively small in scope, but it is vital in providing the necessary natural gas needed for the continued growth and development of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and the surrounding region.
Projects like Mountaineer XPress, WB XPress and Eastern Panhandle Expansion allow TransCanada to continue delivering on our commitment to create new outlets for our customers, transporting Marcellus and Utica shale gas to key markets, and reducing energy costs for consumers across the U.S. Our plan is to have each of these projects flowing natural gas by the end of this year.
We truly appreciate West Virginia for the quality of its workforce, affordable standard of living and its sheer natural beauty. We employ over 1,000 West Virginians — local experts who help us build and operate our pipelines to the highest standards of quality and safety while respecting the environment and keeping West Virginia “Wild and Wonderful.”
West Virginia is special, and the best is yet to come. TransCanada is committed to being a part of moving the state forward.