Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation, fittingly, was the topic of the day at the state Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit at The Greenbrier.
But not only are people talking about the Marcellus shale, but they are investing in developing it.
Through its XTO Energy subsidiary, ExxonMobil now has 170,000 acres of West Virginia under lease for future development, XTO President Randy Cleveland told attendees.
“We’re just getting started, our growth here will be tremendous,” Cleveland said.
When the largest energy company in the world — with annual revenues of $420 billion — invests, it is in for the long haul. West Virginians should be optimistic.
Cleveland advised state officials to stay the course on making the state’s business taxes more competitive. That is noteworthy. Not too long ago corporate presidents warned the state that its taxes were not competitive.
Drilling leads to good-paying jobs, Cleveland said. Jobs in natural gas production currently pay an average of $90,000 a year, which is more than coal miners can expect.
Getting the gas out of the ground will be a tremendous boost to the state’s Ohio River area. The state’s severance tax revenues also will see big growth.
But as they say in those cable TV commercials, wait, there’s more. Post-drilling use of gas from Marcellus shale may be just five years away, according to David Peebles.
He is a vice president for business development, for the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht. Its annual revenues top $43 billion.
Peebles said Odebrecht is about a year away from making a final decision on whether it will build a massive petrochemical complex just south of Parkersburg.
If the project gets the greenlight, the complex could become fully operational by the end of 2019. Gas from the Marcellus shale formation would be its feedstock.
Peebles pointed out that U.S. energy costs are one-third of Brazil’s and the feedstock costs will be one-seventh of what they are in Brazil. That helps.
The future of West Virginia lies thousands of feet below its surface. The state not only has a way of tapping into that gas, but it also has an opportunity to do something very valuable with this resource.
Which is why people talked about the Marcellus shale formation so much at this year’s Business Summit.