WV’s Thrasher “Hopeful” First Chinese Project Announcement Soon

Yesterday the seventh Marcellus and Manufacturing Development Conference was held in Morgantown, WV. The event keynote speaker was Steve Winberg, the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy. He talked about the relationship between manufacturing and shale production. Fortunately for us, Winberg (part of the Trump Administration) said the DOE’s attitude is to not interfere with the shale miracle. Other speakers included Brian Anderson, director of the WVU Energy Institute. However, it was a brief comment made by WV Secretary of Commerce, Woody Thrasher, that really caught our attention. Last November Thrasher signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government, an agreement in which the Chinese pledged to spend $83.7 billion over the next 20 years in WV’s shale and petrochemical sectors (see China Agrees to Invest Amazing $83.7 BILLION in WV Shale, Petchem). So far, five months later, not one red yuan has been invested. What’s the holdup? For one thing, there’s a developing trade war (see Will Trade War with China Affect $83.7B Investment in WV Shale?). Thrasher said yesterday he doesn’t think the trade war will interfere with China’s WV investment (if wishes were horses…). Thrasher also said he’s “very hopeful in the near future that we’ll be able to announce the first project” using Chinese money. Now that is definitely good news–perhaps the biggest news coming from yesterday’s event…
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China Threatens U.S. Shale Oil & Gas with Prospect of Tariffs

We don’t know how many times we have to say it (have said it for years, continue to say it): The Chinese are not America’s friends. They are our enemies. We tend to forget it because we love our iPhones and other electronics built by Chinese children. We’ve become far too cozy, too comfortable, in trusting that China will not do anything to harm America for fear of ending their gravy train. When President Trump wisely slapped tariffs on China in retaliation for their THEFT of our companies’ intellectual property and knock-off goods, China felt the need to respond. Part of that response is proposed tariffs on liquefied petroleum gas (i.e propane), and petrochemical products. The not-so-subtle threat is that they may add oil and LNG to the list. Since China imports more U.S. LNG than any other country, a tariff would definitely hurt. Ditto for oil. We currently export 435,000 barrels a day of oil to China. If that oil flow were suddenly shut down, it would have a dramatic impact on the price of oil here at home (sending West Texas Intermediate into the basement again). Meanwhile, West Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce, Woody Thrasher, says he “hopes” all this trade war stuff won’t affect China’s announced $83.7 billion investment in WV, an investment in shale and petrochemicals. The trade situation with China is high stakes stuff. We’re just glad the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal is the one playing a necessary game of chicken with China…
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Will Trade War with China Affect $83.7B Investment in WV Shale?

Chinese moo goo gai pan

Last November President Trump and assorted state officials, including West Virginia State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, visited China as part of a trade delegation. On that trip, China agreed to invest a total of $250 billion in American (mostly energy) projects, $83.7B of which (a full third!) will go to investments in West Virginia (see China Agrees to Invest Amazing $83.7 BILLION in WV Shale, Petchem). It was all sunshine and flowers and butterflies. But now there’s a big, black cloud on the horizon (perhaps we always knew it was too good to be true). Following a seven month investigation into Chinese theft of American intellectual property, last week President Trump told the U.S. trade representative to levy tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports. China is threatening to impose tariffs on U.S. products in return. A good, old-fashioned trade war. The question has been raised, What about that promised $250 billion of Chinese investment in Uncle Sam? Will China move forward with those investments, or perhaps withhold them? According to one global energy expert, “The Chinese are going to see these things [the promised investments] as bargaining chips.” Which points out the problem with relying on an enemy’s investments…
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M-U Could Support 8 Crackers – Why Don’t Companies Build More?

Tom Gellrich, founder of Top Line Analytics–a consultancy focusing on downstream shale gas development like ethane crackers–spoke Wednesday at Kallanish Energy’s “Crackers, Storage & Pipelines 2018” event at Southpointe. He had some interesting things to say. Among them: The Marcellus/Utica region has enough ethane to easily support up to eight ethane cracker plants–plants the size of the massive Shell cracker being built now in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. So far only Shell has pulled the trigger and begun to build such a plant. PTT Global Chemical, based in Thailand, is actively considering (and likely) to build a second regional cracker plant in Belmont County. So the multi-billion question is this: Why aren’t more companies building crackers in our region, given the abundance of cheap ethane? Gellrich had some thoughts on that…
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New Study Says Petchem Investment in M-U Better than Gulf Coast

This week representatives from Shale Crescent USA are in Houston, TX attending the 33rd Annual World Petrochemical Conference–and they have in hand a dynamite study that shows it’s more cost effective to build a petrochemical plant in the Marcellus/Utica region than it is along the Gulf Coast. Which is heresy if you live along the Gulf Coast. “Benefits, Risks, and Estimated Project Cash Flows: Ethylene Project Located in the Shale Crescent USA versus the US Gulf Coast” is an independent report by IHS Markit commissioned by Shale Crescent USA to evaluate and compare the financial returns and risks of a major petrochemical and plastics investment in the region with an identical investment in the US Gulf Coast. The numbers don’t lie. Here’s one juicy statistic from the newly released study: ethane (the feedstock used to make raw plastics) in our region costs 32% less than it does in the Gulf Coast region. One more factoid from the report: If the Marcellus/Utica were its own country, it would be the #3 natural gas producing country, IN THE WORLD! Our region produces more natural gas than the countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar. Last year the Shale Crescent folks were the new kids at the World Petrochemical Conference. They were just about laughed out of the event. We have a feeling this year is going to be a lot different…
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Is Lycoming County, PA in Midst of “Natural Gas Resurgence”?

Lycoming County, PA

In a recent interview, the CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce said that in Lycoming County the “natural gas industry is enjoying a resurgence.” Which struck us as odd, given our own recent research into the number of wells being drilled (or lack thereof), and the decrease in natural gas production in Lycoming County. We suppose it all depends on what you mean by resurgence. A resurgence in drilling and production? We’d have to answer that with a “no.” However, if you’re talking about a resurgence in jobs related to the natgas industry because of new pipeline projects? Apparently that answer would be a big “yes”…
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“Free” NatGas in Texas Permian Changes Shale Gas Economics in M-U

We spotted an article appearing on the Forbes magazine website that has a chart that stopped us cold in our tracks. The article was written by Jude Clemente, one of our favorite contributors to the Forbes website. He includes three charts in the article to update folks who have an interest in the natural gas space (the article is titled 3 Natural Gas Charts To End Winter 2018). The first chart in the list is “U.S. Natural Gas Wellhead Breakevens by Basin” and shows how much money a driller must make in order to break even–still make a profit. How much money, on average, does a driller have to make per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in, for example, the Marcellus Shale basin in order to stay profitable? That number would be $2.15/Mcf. Anything above $2.15 and the driller makes money. (Bear in mind these are averages. Some drillers, like Cabot Oil & Gas, have lower expenses and can make money at much lower prices per Mcf than others.) What about the Utica? Drillers need to make an average of $2.41/Mcf in the Utica to break even. But at the top of the chart is a rather wild number. Drillers in the Permian Basin (in Texas) can LOSE or spend up to $2.36/Mcf and still “break even.” What? How can that be?…
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Japan Wants a Piece of WV Petchem Industry – Just Like China?

The Japanese recently found out more about the Marcellus/Utica and the region in the Mid-Ohio Valley called the “Shale Crescent.” In June 2016, MDN told you about an economic development group of business and government leaders from Ohio and West Virginia (the Mid-Ohio Valley) called Shale Crescent (see Group Promotes Mid-Ohio Valley for Petrochem: Shale Crescent USA). The group was two years in the making and officially launched in June at a public event in Washington County, OH. The aim of the group is to attract manufacturers–petrochemical manufacturers–to set up shop in the region. Now, nearly two years later, the Japanese are interested–particularly in West Virginia. Why?…
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PA’s Uneven Tax Treatment of Marcellus Industry vs. Amazon HQ2

What if a private company wanted to locate in a state, bringing with it 243,000 direct and spin-off jobs with an average salary of $93,000? And what if that company invested billions of dollars in the state economy? No doubt the state (and local municipalities) would offer up plenty of incentives to ensure they get the business. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (and the State of Pennsylvania) are doing just that–offering up all sorts of incentives to attract Amazon to build its HQ2 project in the Keystone State–a project that promises a huge investment and thousands of employees. However, Amazon’s HQ2 will not employ 243,000 people and inject billions–not anywhere close. But there is an industry that is ALREADY doing exactly what we’ve outlined in the opening sentence. The Marcellus Shale industry has created 243,000 direct and indirect jobs (with an average salary of $93K per year) and has already pumped billions of dollars into the economy. And yet the State of PA and places like Pittsburgh and Philly are, in many ways, fighting against the industry! They don’t offer tax breaks, instead they offer new tax increases! What’s going on here? Why does PA treat Jeff Bezos and Amazon one way, and the Marcellus industry another? Why does PA pick “winners” and “losers” economically? That’s the important topic of a column we recently spotted by Lowman Henry, chairman and CEO of the Lincoln Institute…
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WV’s Northern Panhandle Sits in the Shale Catbird Seat

The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia is doubly blessed. The Panhandle is four counties: Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall. Some add a fifth–Wetzel County. The first four counties in the list sit in a slice of real estate located between Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Panhandle currently produces 38% of WV’s natural gas production, and nearly 70% of its oil production. That’s the first blessing–good rock sits under those counties. The second blessing is the panhandle’s location between PA and OH. On one side, sitting just a few minutes away, is the mighty Shell ethane cracker plant, currently under construction in Monaca (Beaver County, PA). On the other side, also just a few minutes away, sits the proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker site in Dilles Bottom (Belmont County, OH). The second blessing is this: many petrochemical and manufacturing companies will build, even relocate, their operations to take advantage of the raw materials that will come from both cracker plants. And guess where many of them will choose to locate? Yep–right smack in the middle, which is where the Northern Panhandle happens to be–sitting in the catbird seat…
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Atlantic Sunrise Pipe’s Positive Impact in Lancaster Already Felt

Money–a lot of money–is flowing into Lancaster County because of construction work now being done on Williams’ $3 billion, 198-mile Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline project running through 10 Pennsylvania counties to connect Marcellus Shale natural gas from northeastern PA with the Williams’ Transco pipeline in southern Lancaster County. Local media pitches the revenue and jobs created by the project as “temporary.” MDN once heard a union pipeline worker respond to that very argument at a FERC hearing (for the Constitution Pipeline) by saying he’s had an entire career of “temporary” pipeline jobs that last a few months or a year–making enough money to put his kids through college and make a nice living for himself and his family. Lancaster residents should jump for joy at their “temporary” blessing of this pipeline’s construction. Among the beneficiaries of these “temporary benefits” are “dozens of local businesses” and “more than 100 workers” who are employed full-time working on the project. An estimated $75 million (!) is now flooding into the Lancaster County economy, thanks to Atlantic Sunrise…
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Mercer County, PA Gears Up to Benefit from Shell Cracker

“One word: Plastics” (The Graduate) – Mercer County, which is two counties and 50 miles north of Beaver County (located along the border with Ohio) is making plans now for how their county to grab some of the “low hanging fruit” that will appear when the Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County goes online in the early 2020s. You read that right. NOW is the time for counties in the region to make plans and set those plans in motion to attract some of the numerous businesses that will set up shop to be close to the cracker plant. Mercer County officials recently attended a forum where the topic was ancillary development that will happen because of the cracker plant. What is the low hanging fruit that will magically appear with the cracker? Manufacturing–and the jobs that go with it. In particular, manufacturing and jobs in the plastics industry. A regional trade organization–Penn-Northwest Development Corp.–is planning to hit the plastics industry trade shows this year. Penn-Northwest is working with counties like Mercer to help them market themselves to plastics manufacturers…
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WV Update on China Investment: “Dirt Could be Flying This Year”

WV Commerce Sec. Woody Thrasher

West Virginia State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, the man who brokered an unbelievable deal with China, getting China to agree to spend a mind-blowing $83.7 BILLION in the Mountain State over the next 20 years, gave an update to WV legislators yesterday on the China deal. In early November Thrasher visited China as part of a trade delegation with President Trump. On that trip, China agreed to invest a total of $250 billion in American (mostly energy) projects, $83.7B of which (a full third!) will go to investments in WV (see China Agrees to Invest Amazing $83.7 BILLION in WV Shale, Petchem). One legislator at yesterday’s meeting wanted to know when the state might begin to see actual construction activity. Thrasher, who said he’s already made three visits to China and is leaving for his fourth visit this Saturday, said the Chinese have “a great sense of urgency” about beginning projects in the state, and that “the dirt could be flying this year.” Thrasher cautioned legislators that the state needs to up its regulatory and business game–to make the state more attractive to China and others who will flock to the region following a buildup of the shale/petrochemical industry. Thrasher also hinted that the Chinese may be willing to invest in the much-talked-about $10 billion NGL storage hub, the same project that recently received positive signs it will receive a loan guarantee from the federal government (see Appalachian NGL Storage Hub Gets Serious with DOE Loan Guarantee). Here’s Thrasher’s timely update to WV legislators…
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New Study Says Mariner East 1 & 2 will Deliver $9B to PA Economy

In February 2015, Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm Econsult Solutions released a study looking the potential economic impact of the Mariner East 1 & 2 projects, concluding the two project together would result in $4.2 billion coming to Pennsylvania (see New Study: Mariner East 1 & 2 Pipelines Mean $4.2B Windfall in PA). However, projects like Mariner East change over time. Econsult revisited and revamped their original study to reflect those changes. Know what they found? ME1 & ME2 together will result in over $9 billion of economic impact in PA! How could it be that much? Just consider, the two projects together will have created 57,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs between 2014 and 2019 (9,500 jobs annually) with earnings of $2.7 billion impacting multiple industries. And that’s just the jobs piece of the puzzle! Although total economic impact will exceed $9 billion, the pipeline will continue to generate revenue for PA state coffers for years into the future, via taxes and by feeding the petrochemical industry in the Philadelphia area. It’s not $9B total–it’s $9B initially. Sadly, the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection last week halted all work on Mariner East 2, delaying the economic benefits of the project in PA (see PA DEP Caves to Big Green Pressure, Stops All Work on ME2 Pipeline). Let’s hope ME2 resumes work quickly. In the meantime, we have a copy of Econsult’s new report below, along with comments by antis who ignore the hard science in front of their faces that the Mariner pipelines are a bonanza for PA…
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Appalachian NGL Storage Hub Gets Serious with DOE Loan Guarantee

Just yesterday MDN told you that Mountaineer NGL Storage wants to be THE main ethane/NGL storage hub for the Marcellus/Utica region (see Mountaineer NGL Wants to be THE Appalachian Storage Hub). There has long been talk of a major, $10 billion regional NGL storage hub. But until know it’s been just that–talk. A major hub is now much more of a possibility. Last June West Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Shelley Moore Capito (Republican) and Joe Manchin (Democrat), introduced Senate Bill 1337–the “Capitalizing American Storage Potential (CASP) Act”–a bill that would make a regional ethane storage hub (hopefully built in WV) eligible for the Department of Energy’s Title XVII loan guarantee program (see WV Sens. Capito & Manchin Introduce 2 More Ethane Storage Hub Bills). The bill didn’t go anywhere, but the intention of the bill certainly did. Yesterday it was announced that the DOE has invited those promoting the regional ethane storage hub to submit “Part II” of the application for a Title XVII loan guarantee of $1.9 billion. There’s a lot to unpack in the announcement below. First, the regional storage hub has an official name: The Appalachia Storage & Trading Hub (first time we’d read of it). Second, the project has an official backer: the Appalachia Development Group, LLC (or “ADG”). Third, ADG previously filed Part I of the application with the DOE, back in September. Fourth, since the DOE has invited ADG to supply Part II of the application, that implies Part I from September was/is approved. Fifth, $1.9 billion is far short of the eventual cost bandied about of $10 billion–but it can certainly get this project off the ground and running. And sixth, this is NOT a loan from the government, it is a guarantee. Someone else would make the loan, but the full faith and credit of the United States would back it up, in case of default. A Title XVII loan guarantee makes it much easier to find a loan…
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Big Changes Coming in Randolph County, WV with Atlantic Coast Pipe

Randolph County, WV is about to see some big changes in the coming months. Why? In “early spring” somewhere around 400-1,200 workers will descend on Randolph as work begins to build the mighty $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) being built by Dominion Energy. Members of the Rotary Club of Elkins heard a presentation earlier this week about what to expect when the pipeliners come a callin’. Some of those impacts include: higher traffic levels, more business for restaurants and convenience stores, an uptick in business at local laundromats, and higher occupancy for hotels and apartment buildings. According to Denise Campbell, community liaison for the ACP, “There’s a lot of opportunity.” Here’s a recap of Campbell’s comments to the Rotarians…
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