(Reuters) – Impressed by the riches created by shale gas in some U.S. Northeast states, Virginia is working to build a manufacturing hub and create thousands of jobs from the cheap fuel that will soon flow into the state, Governor Terry McAuliffe said on Wednesday.
Shale gas output has jumped more than 10 fold in less than a decade, transforming the economies of producers such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Dakota, and Virginia wants a piece of that, he told Reuters.
“Once we have access to this cheap gas, we will be able to become the Mid-Atlantic hub for manufacturing in the United States,” McAuliffe said in an interview.
Last month, the governor joined Virginia’s Dominion Resources Inc and its partners in announcing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will transport gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to consumers in Virginia and North Carolina.
Five years ago, the Marcellus produced barely 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day and the Utica less than 0.2 bcfd. Now the Marcellus pumps 16 bcfd, a fifth of America’s gas, and the Utica turns out about 1.5 bcfd.
The two basins are at the heart of the U.S. shale gas revolution, where the combination of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling technologies have produced massive volumes inexpensively from of once-ignored fields.
“Fracking is revolutionizing manufacturing in the United States. Businesses are bringing manufacturing jobs back from China and elsewhere overseas because cheap energy is giving us a competitive edge,” McAuliffe said. “It will make us energy independent.”
Dominion’s 550-mile proposed pipeline across the state is expected to create about 8,800 construction jobs, the governor said. He is also supporting other gas projects in Virginia, which produced less than 0.5 bcfd last year and has relatively little fracking activity.
McAuliffe is not just in favor of gas. He is also a “huge advocate” of nuclear power, renewables and energy efficiency to help replace the state’s shrinking coal industry, which employs about 5,000 people.
Dominion, which is building new gas-fired power plants to replace some older coal plants, wants to build a third reactor at its North Anna nuclear power station. It also has a federal lease to develop a wind farm off the coast of Virginia.
McAuliffe sees a manufacturing opportunity there too.
“If we’re going to do wind, I want the turbines and the blades to be manufactured in Virginia. We have the port and can manufacture them there and ship them all over the world,” he said, referring to the Norfolk port.