West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said a major underground natural gas liquids storage facility proposed for the Ohio Valley is a top economic priority for his office.
Speaking at the annual winter meeting of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia in Charleston Wednesday, Justice said administration officials spoke this week to a “major player” involved in the development of the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub, although he did not offer specifics. Justice said he would be reaching out to federal officials shortly to continue advocating for its development.
"The number one economic focus on my office today is the natural gas hub," Justice said.
If built, the hub would allow more natural gas liquids to remain in Appalachia. Storage is a key infrastructure investment needed to attract petrochemical manufacturers to the region.
Justice touted his relationship with President Donald Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry as reasons why he was confident storage hub, which has been in development for almost a decade, would be built.
He said the hub is crucial to the state’s future prosperity.
"The hub ensures, the hub ensures job boom in West Virginia forever," he said. "It ensures our security forever, the way I see it. Forever. "
The project would be built with a combination of private investment and a $1.9 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, which is being applied for by the project's developer, the Appalachia Development Group, LLC.
ADG's CEO Steve Hendrick told meeting attendees he had growing confidence in the hub becoming a reality.
"Something that many people may have thought was a pipedream just a few years ago, no pun intended," he said. "Something that many may still think is a dream, well I'm here to tell you, and any doubters who might be still out there, that the hope I've carried with me since we got this started and enganged in the effort, which shockingly was some nine years ago, this hope is based in reality and opportunity that is right on the tips of our fingers."
A year ago, the project got approval for the first of two application phases for a $1.9 billion U.S. Department of Energy loan. Last summer, ADG annouced it was hiring an outside firm, Parsons Corporation, to help with the second phase and data collection.
Speaking at the conference, Hendrick said a number of sites have been selected for consideration, including in West Virignia.
A new report fedeal report released in December found developing ethane storage in Appalachia could provide a boost for the entire petrochemical industry. The American Chemistry Council estimates the hub could attract up to $36 billion in new chemical and plastics industry investment and create 100,000 new area jobs.
Environmental groups have expressed concern the storage hub would turn the Ohio Valley into a petrochemical manufacturing center, which could negatively affect public and environmental health.