When discussing the Mighty Marcellus, it’s often Pennsylvania that one thinks of because of the sheer size of the Marcellus Shale across the state and the record breaking natural gas production that has occurred here. But the latest data from the West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey (WVGES) shows that Pennsylvania is not the only Marcellus state with amazing production results. From a recent Wheeling Intelligencer article:
“They are remarkable. They are shocking,” Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, said of the numbers. “We were at about 260 billion cubic feet in 2008. Now, it just keeps going up because of fracking and horizontal drilling.”
Just how much natural gas are we talking about? Well, just one well in Ohio County produced enough gas in 2014 to supply electricity for over 24,000 homes! In fact, in 2014 the state produced over one trillion cubic feet of natural gas. According to Energy.gov, that’s enough natural gas to,
- heat 15 million homes for one year;
- generate 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity;
- and fuel 12 million natural-gas powered vehicles for one year.
And it’s not just natural gas that is booming. The state also produced 8.3 million barrels of liquids like ethane and propane, along with the natural gas developed. These feedstocks are used for heating, manufacturing and making plastics, and will be a huge boon for the region if an ethane cracker facility is built in the area to treat ethane.
In addition to the natural gas and liquids, Ohio County had one well that produced over 45,000 barrels of light crude oil in 2014, and the state overall produced 5.2 million barrels.
What’s even better? West Virginia has barely scratched the surface of its potential when it comes to shale development. From a recent Wheeling Intelligencer article:
“I remember when we got to 100 Bcf and thought that was great,” Corky Demarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said. “The thing is, we’ve probably only permitted about 5 percent of the potential Marcellus wells in West Virginia.”
But with this five percent, West Virginia has already seen incredible economic benefits. For instance, Marshall County sits near Wheeling, which was recently named the fifth fastest growing metropolitan in the country thanks to shale development.
Marshall County’s proximity to not only shale development, but infrastructure as well, has helped to improve the economic outlook in the region. The county’s unemployment rate was 5.5 percent near the end of 2015, and community leaders are hoping to create even more jobs with a cluster of petrochemical, manufacturing and natural gas plants that will use the liquids found in the county. From the Tribune-Review,
“Officials want to lure manufacturers that can use the cheap natural gas and liquids to power their operations or as a base component for plastics once they are converted at a cracker, such as the one Thai company PTT Global Chemical is considering just across the river in Ohio at a former coal-fired power plant.
“We really hope to attract the crackers and downstream opportunities to get those long-term jobs,” Dennison said.
PTT is spending $100 million on engineering studies as it considers the site, and could build additional facilities for processing that would employ several hundred people.” (emphasis added)
But like the rest of the Appalachian Basin, West Virginia is currently awaiting approval for new pipelines that will be built to provide a means to sell this gas to market and further benefit communities within the state. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Rover Pipeline, the Leach XPress Pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Nexus Pipeline are currently under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). And once approved, these pipelines will allow operators to increase production further. As Tim Greene, owner of Land and Mineral Management of Appalachia and a former inspector for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, told the Wheeling Intelligencer:
“If there is already this much production, try to imagine what there can be when we get more pipelines.”
Imagine indeed. As more infrastructure is built, West Virginia will become an even more important part of the shale development taking place across the Appalachian Basin, providing energy across the country.