Update: Lawmaker, development officials discuss China natural gas agreement

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PARKERSBURG, PLEASANTS COUNTY, W.Va. (WTAP) - Updated: 11/15/2017 6:30 P.M.

A regional development official says an agreement with China on natural gas storage could make West Virginia a player in an industry that brought financial benefits to another part of the country.

"That would bring feedstock to the manufacturers close at hand, which is what really made the Gulf Coast thrive in the plastics and polymers industry," says Eric Peters, Executive Director of the Tyler County Development Authority, whose county is a potential location for a storage hub. "We hope to see that happen in the coming decades in this region."

A local House of Delegates member said he saw some details a few months ago, of how the state could be a storage hub.

Wood County's John Kelly says certain communities up and down the Ohio River, and beyond, could be potential sites for the project.

"There's also discussion to take it up to the Kanawha Valley. So it's a big project, and there's opportunity and probability a considerable number of jobs could be created, if all the technicalities can be worked out between the state and the (federal) Department of Energy."

Kelly adds, however, he was not aware until last weeks' announcement, of China's involvement in the project.

Under questioning from reporters Monday, state officials, including Gov. Jim Justice, provided few details of the agreement.

Both Peters and Kelly caution details of the plan still need to be worked out.

11/13/2017 6:25 P.M.

Gov. Jim Justice says the agreement with a China energy company announced November 9 is more than a "meno of understanding", as it has been characterized.

The governor Monday held his first news conference since last week's announcement China Energy Investment Corporation plans to invest billions in West Virginia's natural gas industry.

Justice says, with the state's large shale reserves, the agreement will be a major boost for the state's economy.

"It's truly mind-boggling when you really think about it. It could be tens of thousands of good paying jobs," Justice said Monday. "It could be growth like we have never imagined."

Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher says the Chinese firm has a strong environmental record, including research and development in clean coal technology.

11/10/2017 6:30 P.M.

While some have cautious optimism, an agreement between China and West Virginia is seen as a "win-win" for the Mountain State.

"I cannot, in my lifetime, ever remember any project the size of this,
ever being announced in this entire region," says Keith Burdette, President of the Polymer Alliance Zone, which includes Mason, Jackson, Wood, Pleasants and Tyler Counties.

Burdette is taking about the deal announced Thursday during President Trump's Asian visit, that China is investing tens of billions of dollars in West Virginia's natural gas industry.

In 2016, when he was the state's commerce secretary, Burdette was in talks with the Chinese firm involved in the deal

He says Shinway Energy's participation will be more as a partner than an owner.

"They really don't want to come in and run all these things. They want to be partnered with U.S. companies. It's a monstrous first step, but there's still a lot of opportunities and other things to do."

He adds the main project is not extraction, but natural gas storage-something Jody Murphy, Executive Director of the Pleasants County Chamber of Commerce says is as vital to the industry as drilling.

"If we have more gas supply feed stock that can be transported to other places, that will be a huge help as well," Murphy says. "It will help several of our gas plants, (like) Dynergy plant."

Neighboring Tyler County is a potential site for a storage facility.

Murphy says Pleasants County stands to gain economically as much as its neighbor to the north.

Burdette says developers of a proposed ethane cracker in Wood County are still committed to the project.

He adds a storage hub would also improve those prospects, as well as encourage other crackers in the region.


CHARLESTON, W.Va.-(AP) China Energy Investment Corporation Limited has signed an agreement with the West Virginia Dept. of Commerce on an $83.7 billion plan to invest in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia.

The Memoradum of Understanding was signed Thursday in Beijing, witnessed by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen signed the MOU.

"This is a great day for the state of West Virginia," Gov. Jim Justice said. "I’ve been saying for the last couple months that the tides are turning in West Virginia and this is proof. Today is another sign as we joined with my good friend President Trump to announce the largest investment in our state’s history."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also released a statement Thursday morning, saying, "I am thrilled Secretary Thrasher and China Energy have signed the Memorandum of Understanding today in Beijing. I have always said that West Virginians are the hardest working people in the world. I’m glad China Energy recognizes this and is working with us to create jobs and economic growth in our state."

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said early Thursday morning, "Expanding Appalachia’s energy infrastructure, including developing a regional storage hub and market for natural gas liquids, will have a transformative effect on our economy, our security, and our future. From driving growth and creating jobs to maximizing America’s energy potential, the benefits for West Virginia and the country from this new investment will be significant and long-lasting.

"That’s why I worked diligently to expand West Virginia's energy infrastructure and bring this investment to our state, advocating for it with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretaries Perry and Ross. I’m excited to continue working with the administration, and state, local and private-sector leaders to keep this effort moving forward," Sen. Capito said.

China Energy is the world's largest power company, with more than 200,000 employees.

This investment by China Energy is the culmination of years of relationship building, both by West Virginia University and the state,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “It is also an excellent example of the possibilities that we have been discussing within the West Virginia Forward initiative with our partners at the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University.

“As I have traveled the state talking about West Virginia Forward, I have frequently said we need a ‘quick win.’ In the economic development world, this is a nearly unprecedented big win. The agreement, and the ramifications from it, will help move West Virginia forward for years to come.”

Marshall President Jerry Gilbert released the following statement on the announcement:

“I congratulate Governor Jim Justice, Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and Economic Development Director Kris Hopkins on this amazing announcement. This is indeed a game-changer for West Virginia and I could not be more excited about this development and what it means for our state and for Marshall University.

“One of my priorities as president is economic development for West Virginia and ensuring Marshall is a full partner with the Department of Commerce. Our faculty has the expertise and, through our College of Information Technology and Engineering and our College of Science, is equipping our students with the necessary skill sets to be leaders in this global economy, providing top-notch researchers to develop new technologies. We also are helping our state workforce train for the jobs of tomorrow through RCBI, our center of excellence in advanced manufacturing.

“At Marshall University, we have the knowledge, engineers, researchers, tech specialists and professionals to help this endeavor come into reality. We stand ready to partner with the state to provide this workforce. Put simply, Marshall University is ready to get to work!”

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