FAIRMONT — Last week’s Bridges Without Boundaries Business Summit brought forth a lot of important conversations, primarily one about China’s impending energy trade agreement with West Virginia, and what that might mean for North Central West Virginia.
West Virginia University Energy Institute Director Brian Anderson led the conversation with a speech at the summit, detailing specific advantages and assets that the region has to offer.
“We have, in North Central West Virginia, a lot of natural gas resources,” Anderson said. “There have been some natural gas power plants in various stages of development here in North Central West Virginia. That’s one of the things that could certainly affect the area.”
In addition to the area’s natural gas resources, Anderson said several manufacturers could locate in the region because of its connections and closeness to cities like Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh.
“There’s a real opportunity in the supply chain,” Anderson said. “There’s an opportunity in manufacturing there, because of road connectivity to D.C. and some of the bigger population centers that way across I-68.
“You can imagine that the supply chain goes from (a) cracker near the Ohio River, but then the next level being the dryer and processor can be here in North Central West Virginia. The manufacturer and finished product, as well, and then just ship it into D.C. We can certainly build all of those small manufacturers that are really a big multiplier.”
Anderson explained why exactly the China deal exists, detailing the abundance of natural gas in the region and state, along with the technical advancements that have allowed for faster, more efficient and cleaner methods of extracting it.
“The production that we’re seeing in the United States is increasing every month, and has for the last 10 years,” Anderson said. “What we’ve seen is that the number of rigs drilling has been decline while production is increasing, and that’s because of that technology … We have so much (natural gas) that we need to both use as much as we can in the region and ship it out, because there’s a balance between separating natural gas and natural gas liquids.”
Anderson said that because of these advancements, a trade deal with China could be coming along at the perfect time.
“Over the last 10 years, production really shifted to the north east,” Anderson said. “What that’s done is the production has gone up so fast that we haven’t been able to keep up with it in either the infrastructure to ship it out or the in-region demand to use it. All of this is pointing toward the opportunity in front of us in this region … This has given a conduit to our partners in China.”
Anderson closed his speech by saying that the China deal could mean wonderful things for the state and region, but in order to take full advantage of the opportunity, work force and infrastructure must be a priority moving forward.
“As we look forward to the opportunity that comes because we have this investment coming, we can now start innovating the next generation of these products,” Anderson said. “This deal is a commitment between the state of West Virginia and the China Energy Investment Corporation to come together and work on this entire portfolio of opportunity and push each project forward through due diligence … We need to be ready as a state.”