China Energy Investment Corporation Limited plans to invest $83.7 billion in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in Appalachia areas of West Virginia.
West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen signed a Memorandum of Understanding, marking the first step in a series of commitments China Energy plans to make in the Mountain State.
Planning for the projects is underway and will proceed in phases over the course of 20 years, the West Virginia Department of Commerce said. The projects will focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing, and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives. The plans clearly demonstrate a total value chain approach, integrated from raw materials through the production of useful chemical intermediates locally.
According to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Thrasher revealed that early projects would include two natural gas-fired power plants, likely in Harrison and Brooke counties, with construction potentially starting in the next six to eight months.
“I don't want to get into the specifics of the projects," said Thrasher. "There's a whole wide series of projects. Can I guarantee you that they're going to spend 83 billion dollars in 20 years? No. But what I can guarantee you is: the governor has directed me to do everything within my power to facilitate these projects going forward.”
“"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," said Senator Shelley Moore Capito. "That's why I worked diligently to expand West Virginia's energy infrastructure and bring this investment to our state.”
WVU Energy Institute Director Dr. Brian Anderson added that potential projects would run the entire spectrum of natural gas and petrochemical products and facilities, WV Public Broadcasting reported. Building an underground storage hub for natural gas liquids would link to production facilities through pipelines.
"This is a great day for the state of West Virginia," said Governor Jim Justice. "I've been saying for the last couple months that the tides are turning in West Virginia and this is proof.
"West Virginia has actively sought direct foreign investment to strengthen and diversify our economy," said Commerce Secretary Thrasher. "Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Hino Motors, Gestamp, Sogefi and other solid corporate citizens with international parent companies create jobs, generate incomes and support communities in West Virginia. In that same spirit, we welcome China Energy and the mutual benefits our energy collaboration will bring."
According to state officials, China Energy selected West Virginia for this project because of the State's position as a key energy-producing state and home to one of the world's largest shale gas reserves, underpinned by a longstanding relationship between the two entities.
Both Justice and Thrasher say that the state has offered nothing in exchange for the investment or been asked to provide tax breaks, changes in policy or any other incentives at this point.
“We want to be realistic," said Justice. "We want to absolutely believe that it's happening. But, at the same time, we don't want to just drop all of our guards and think, 'Yeah, yeah, it's done, done.'” Thrasher said there is a schedule moving forward to solidify potential projects and that he expects to see construction beginning by this time next year.