West Virginia Needs More Good Stuff and Less Bad Stuff, But Who Knows Which is Which?

by Duane Nichols on September 24, 2021

Greenhouse Gases GHG are very bad stuff in the air

West Virginia needs to capture value-added activity for natural gas

Editorial from the Huntington Herald Dispatch, September 5, 2021

How much has natural gas production in Appalachia increased since drillers began fracking in 2008? Consider this from the federal Energy Information Administration last week: “On its own, the Appalachian Basin would have been the third-largest natural gas producer in the world the first half of 2021, behind Russia and the rest of the United States.”

That’s why we see fewer coal trains moving through the area and why almost no coal barges come out of the Big Sandy River nowadays. Gas has taken much of coal’s market in the domestic power industry.

The Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia accounted for 34% of all U.S. dry natural gas production in the first half of 2021, according to the EIA. In the first six months of this year, production in the region averaged 31.9 billion cubic feet per day, the highest average for a six-month period since production began in 2008, the agency said.

Northern West Virginia has benefited from development of Marcellus shale, as landowners have collected royalties and construction workers have built pipelines and gas processing plants such as those in Doddridge and Wetzel counties. Development of the shale field has had its problems, especially in the early days. In the Legislature, questions about property owners’ rights continue.

Fracking — shorthand for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — isn’t going away. Neither is the demand for natural gas in the chemical and electricity-generating industries. The thing is that West Virginia has lagged in taking full advantage of the gas industry.

There should be growth potential in natural gas liquids, such as ethane, which are found in some gas fields. About eight years ago, a Brazilian company announced plans to build a chemical plant in Wood County to take advantage of natural gas liquids that are abundant in West Virginia, but those plans were dropped soon after. A multibillion-dollar ethane processing plant has been built at Monaca, Pennsylvania, near West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, and people in the Moundsville area keep waiting for a company in Thailand to decide whether to build a similar plant across the Ohio River from them.

The window to build such plants may have closed temporarily. Pipelines carry West Virginia gas out of state, and people in those other states receive most of the benefits of it. It’s easy to say West Virginia should do more to become competitive in industries that use natural gas. Answering the question “How?” is not so easy, but a viable answer could help give the state’s economy the boost it needs.



1. Mary Wildfire, Roane County, WV ~~ All true in this Editorial but a few tiny things are left out. Like the horrendous toll on the environment and health from fracking, the civilization-ending threat of climate change, the glutted markets for both gas and plastic, the anti-plastics movement ramping up globally as people discover the horrifying effects of plastic pollution — it’s high time we stopped clinging to yesterday’s technologies.

2. Duane Nichols, Monongalia County, WV ~~ Drilling and fracking and pipelining offers jobs to young workers willing to move around frequently and work irregular hours. But, those jobs are fleeting and gone after a few months. The truck noises, truck pollution, truck accidents are all a detriment and perhaps a small penalty compared to the road damages and road congestion. Natural gas is a precious commodity except for the climate change impacts known as greenhouse gases, GHG. Joseph Fourier understood the earth’s greenhouse effect in 1822, Savante Arrhenius extended the understanding in 1896, and the newspapers in New Zealand were writing about it in 1912, so how long will it take the man on the street to believe it and take it seriously?

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