In the last year, northern West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania have witnessed an expansion in natural gas production capacity with the launching of new pipeline projects, a trend that must continue if American manufacturing is to sustain its leading role in the economy.
According to the Charleston Daily Mail, in July and September of last year, Equitrans (EQT) launched its Sunrise Project and its new Blacksville Compressor Station, respectively. These pipelines have the capacity to carry a combined 510 million cubic feet per day.
Also in September of last year, Dominion Transmission engaged its Appalachian Gateway Project, launching four compressor stations and over 100 miles of new pipeline, capable of handling up to 470 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
While Equitrans serves companies throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, Dominion Transmission’s lines also connect with the Texas Eastern Transmission Pipeline. By the end of 2015, Texas Eastern projects the construction of a pipeline with the capacity to transport 390 million cubic feet of gas per day.
In total, this new capacity has increased West Virginia’s average rate of daily natural gas production by 51 percent. Up 790 million cubic feet per day since the first half of 2012, the state’s average production now sits at a rate of 2.34 billion cubic feet per day.
Meanwhile, in southern Pennsylvania, rates of production have more than doubled in the same amount of time, from 0.86 to 1.73 billion cubic feet per day. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects additional infrastructure to grow production in the region by the early part of 2015.
According to the Daily Mail article, the increasing demand and capacity for natural gas has the potential to be a real boon for West Virginia:
Planned processing plant expansions through the end of this year could also add significantly to the state’s processing capacity, which totaled 0.85 (billion cubic feet per day) in 2012,” the EIA said. That means that even without construction of a coveted “cracker” plant, West Virginia’s natural gas production could continue to rise substantially over the coming 18 months.
While more new infrastructure is coming online, more is needed. Continued construction and expansion of pipelines can help our states fully realize the shale gas opportunity. U.S. manufacturers especially need infrastructure to move energy feedstocks (natural gas liquids, or NGLs) from sites of production to their factories.
Testifying at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing in May, ACC president and CEO Cal Dooley stressed the need for permitting and building infrastructure investments linking “upstream oil and gas production to downstream chemical manufacturing,” as well as for policies, such as maintaining state-based regulation of unconventional natural gas development, that can help America sustain its new-found competitive advantage. Building new infrastructure now can set the stage for significant chemical plant investments slated to come on line in 2016, 2017, and beyond.
ACC continues to emphasize the critical role played by abundant and affordable supplies of domestic natural gas in revitalizing the US chemical industry; enabling the U.S. to compete in global markets; and providing jobs, fuel, and feedstock to American manufacturers.
Thanks to tremendous supplies of low-cost natural gas, North American chemicals and plastics production is expected to more than double to 70 million tons by 2020, while Western European output contracts to 20 million tons.