Shale Insight Conference emphasizes tri-state unity

PITTSBURGH – Members of the oil and gas industry from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio are gathering to celebrate the industry and its ever-growing potential at the 2018 Shale Insight Conference.

The conference is put on by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Here are highlights of comments and by speakers from Day 1.

— Joe Bozada, CFO and COO of Appalachian Development Group, said the American Chemical Council has projected that natural gas liquids development in the tri-state Marcellus-Utica basin could produce 100,000 new jobs.

The development group’s core focus, he said, is pursuing the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub, with its storage facilities and associated pipelines plus a trading company to create a sustainable marketplace.

Andree Griffin

— The whole conference is focused not on tri-state competition but unity, as reflected in the 2015 Tri-State Governor’s Regional Cooperation agreement that created the Tri-State Shale Coalition.

Denise Brinley, senior advisor for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said the coalition’s primary underpinning is: “Prosperity flows where value is added to a raw material.” The most prominent example is the Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals cracker plant in process outside Pittsburgh.

The region possesses “clear, compelling advantages in recruiting manufacturing,” she said. And production of natural gas liquids, essential to the petrochemical industry, is projected to grow sevenfold by middle of next decade.

With that in mind, she unveiled a new branding promotion, to link the three states as “one place, one name, one opportunity” to promote manufacturing, marketing and exports. The green and gold logo labels the area as The Power Region.

“We believe this is absolutely critical to draw focus on a region where the most significant opportunities on earth are unfolding,” Brinley said.

— Andree Griffin, vice president of geology and geophysics for XTO Energy, said that since start of 2012, Marcellus and Utica shale production has provided 85 percent growth in U.S. shale production.

“These rates are staggering, but they are also very exciting,” she said. And they’re just the beginning. Ever-improving technology, longer laterals and other advances will continually expand production. “The full potential of this resource is being rewritten year over year.”

— Coal and gas are carbon cousins that united in their opposition to Obama-era carbon fuel policies. But there’s also an inherent tension, reflected in comments throughout the day to expand the gas industry’s reach, and produce cleaner power, by displacing coal-fired plants with gas-fired.

Anne Blankenship, executive director of WVONGA, addressed that tension in an answer to a question from The Dominion Post.

“That’s an especially difficult question and topic right now in West Virginia,” she said, as West Virginia has been a coal-fired state. It lags behind Ohio and Pennsylvania in developing gas-fired power.

Three gas-fired plants are in the approval process and have faced challenges “directly related to the coal industry’s concerns about natural gas being used instead of coal. … As an industry, we’re really to trying to do what we can to get additional support to get through those hurdles. But it is what it is and we’re hoping to move forward.

She observed, “This is a regional grid; it’s a regional market. If these plants don’t get built in West Virginia, it’s not necessarily a win for coal. It’s a win for our surrounding states, because those plants are going to get built somewhere because we need them. “

WVONGA would like to see them built in West Virginia, she said, but added that the conference is focused on tri-state unity and the Utica shale play offers even greater opportunity than the Marcellus.