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Pipeline construction said critical if W.Va. to develop natural gas-related industries

By George Hohmann
For the W.Va. Press Association

WESTON, W.Va. — Pipeline construction in West Virginia is vital if the state hopes to attract factories that would use the region’s rapidly increasing supply of natural gas, according to an executive with a major energy company.

Paul Kress EQT Energy
Paul Kress
EQT Energy

Speaking at this week’s West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association spring meeting, Paul Kress, vice president of market origination at EQT Energy, said there’s an estimated $5.7 billion in pipeline projects on the drawing board for West Virginia.

EQT is involved in two of those projects:* The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a $3.5 billion, 300-mile pipeline that would run from Bradshaw in Wetzel County to Pittsylvania County, Va.; and

* The Ohio Valley Connector, a $415.5 million, 37-mile pipeline that would run from Mobley in Wetzel County to Clarington in Monroe County, Ohio.

“Whenever you build a pipeline, industries and manufacturing facilities that use natural gas are going to be attracted to those locations,” Kress said. “If you get the infrastructure right and people believe they’ll have a reliable supply, the facilities and investments will follow.”

Kress cited a report by West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business Research that said the natural gas portion of West Virginia’s gross domestic product will surpass that from coal this year.

A study by Wood Mackenzie, a provider of commercial intelligence for the energy industry, predicts that offshore production of natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico will steadily decline through 2020 while West Virginia production is expected to continue rising rapidly, Kress said.

EQT is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa. The company has more than 1,900 employees and thousands of contractors in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas. An affiliate owns more than 700 miles of federally regulated pipeline and more than 1,600 miles of natural gas gathering lines.

Kress pointed out that the Gulf Coast has one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. The facilities allow companies to easily move product around. However, the Gulf Coast wasn’t always like that. “It started with a long-term resource the petrochemical companies believed in,” he said.

Industry needs to see pipelines getting built to bolster the belief that the supply of natural gas in West Virginia is real, long-term and consistently available, Kress said. “When that happens, we think investment will come to the region and connect to the pipes and use that natural gas locally.”

Getting the pipelines built will require support from industry, the Legislature and local communities, Kress said.

Kress spoke to about 150 industry leaders gathered at Stonewall Resort for WVONGA’s spring meeting.

Mark Blankenship, founder of a polling company that bears his name, also spoke at the meeting. A survey his firm conducted on behalf of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and Energize West Virginia, an association program, showed that 76 percent of all respondents support the construction of underground pipelines to transport natural gas.

The survey involved interviews with 500 registered West Virginia voters between Jan. 19 and Jan. 22. The margin of error is 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

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