Some 15 elected West Virginia officials met on Monday with the Route 2 | I-68 Authority. The aim of the meeting is to move the ball down the field (or the asphalt along the ground) in an effort to expand Route 2 to four lanes from Parkersburg, WV to Chester, WV, and to extend Interstate 68 from I-79 near Morgantown, WV westward to WV Route 2 along the Ohio River Valley, some 73 miles. The reason for the $1 billion project? To handle more shale-related traffic.
Officials say the state needs road infrastructure or new manufacturing plants set to spring up near the Shell, PTT and possibly a WV cracker, will go elsewhere to build. WV wants to leverage the coming bonanza in jobs and factories that will locate near the cracker plants. Better roads will help.
However, the officials promoting the plan are having a tough time getting WV Gov. Jim Justice, who has major holdings in coal interests, to get on board and support the effort.
Growth of the Ohio Valley’s shale industry is leading officials in the region to raise awareness about infrastructure.
About 15 elected and appointed officials met Monday in Fairmont with the Route 2, I-68 Authority, an appointed body that is pushing to get an estimated $1 billion in state and federal funds to extend I-68 about 73 miles from Morgantown into the Ohio Valley.
Authority Executive Director Bob Miller of Wheeling said it appears that decision makers in Charleston and Washington, D.C. don’t yet understand the huge investments currently being made in West Virginia by the shale gas industry.
“They just really don’t seem to get it or they are just focused on different parts of the state, but they just don’t get it,”?Miller said.
Miller, a former county commissioner in Marshall County, cites a $4.5 billion investment by Williams Energy as one example of how large the growing industry is in the Mountain State.
“If they have cheap energy and the raw materials that are here, we need to build infrastructure or we believe that they might not come here,” Miller said.
There are at least five components in a typical “wet” natural gas stream – ethane, propane, normal butane, iso-butane and natural gas. NGLs are separated at natural gas “cracker” plants and then transported to markets where they are applied to a broad variety of energy and manufacturing uses, including plastics, synthetic rubber, home heating, cooking, petrochemical and refinery feedstock, motor fuels blending and fertilizers.
According to a study released in March at the World Petrochemical Conference in San Antonio, Texas, the tri-state region of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will supply 45 percent of the nation’s production of natural gas and natural gas liquids by 2040. Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia sit on top of what’s called the Shale Crescent, an area that is rich in Marcellus Shale, which harbors natural gas.
Production of the natural gas liquids ethane, propane and butane is expected to nearly double in the same period, the study said.
Authority Member Sen. Charles Clements (R-Wetzel) of New Martinsville, believes the number of jobs the shale industry will create will surpass coal in the long term.
“It’s literally a game changer. This could have a big impact on West Virginia. It’s taken a while and there are a lot of growing pains with it,” Clements said.
Like Miller, Clements cites Shell Chemical’s $5 billion dollar cracker processing plant across the Allegheny River in Monaca, Penn. as the kind of investment West Virginia could see if the roads were here to accommodate the growth.
While under construction, the plant hired between 6-8,000 workers and after completion, it plans to hire up to 600 permanent employees.
“These cracker plants are going to create a lot of downstream activity. Right now, we are shipping a lot of ethane to the Gulf Coast where they transform it into ethylene and then they ship it back to other markets in the U.S. and abroad,”?Clements said.
Both Clements and Miller point out how building cracker plants in West Virginia will create a lot of what they dubbed “downstream activity.”
Such activity comes in the form of other businesses that would do business with ethane providers, such as petrochemical and plastics manufacturers.
An extended I-68 and a widened State Route 2 would help move these liquid natural gas products to the deepened harbor in Baltimore where the products would be shipped to world markets.
“We need to act quickly to build new infrastructure for 10, 15, 20 years down the road to facilitate the movement of these products,”?Miller said.
Fairmont Deputy Mayor Phil Mason said he is willing to do his part to bring state legislators together to put pressure on Gov. Jim Justice to approve the road-widening and extension projects. Justice’s approval would be the first step to getting federal funds for the roads.
“When Gov. Manchin was in there, it was not on his list. When Gov. Tomlin was in there it was not on his list, and now apparently Gov. Justice doesn’t feel it percolates to the top on his list either,”?Mason said. “It’s frankly a little short sighted on behalf of the state of West Virginia not to realize the value that can be developed now with the impetus provided by the oil and gas boom, and it’s right here in our region.
Miller said he is willing to go out into the community and speak with civic groups to develop a groundswell of support for the road projects.*
*Fairmont (WV) Times West Virginian (Apr 9, 2019) – Authority seeks community support of I-68 extension project
This post appeared first on Marcellus Drilling News