By Janell Hunter
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
WOODSFIELD — Monroe County officials and business leaders learned more about the oil and gas industry and its plans for the area at the “What’s in the Pipeline for Monroe County” informational forum on Thursday.
The event, held at the Brown Community Center in Woodsfield, was hosted by the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, the Monroe County Tourism Council and the Monroe County Port Authority and featured presentations from Rice Energy, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, Ohio Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, Energy In Depth Ohio and EdgeMarc.
Because of the ongoing production, pipeline work, rig construction and other oil and gas-related activity in the county, Ohio Oil and Gas Association Director of Public Relations Mike Chadsey and Chamber of Commerce official Barbara Carslund decided to gather the organizations together to inform residents of developments in the industry, and how they expect their plans will impact local jobs and the economy in a positive way.
Chadsey said he wanted to emphasize that the industry has been in a downturn in the last couple of years, but that it is beginning to make a comeback.
“Monroe County has been at the heart of the industry coming out of the downturn,”Chadsey said. “Certainly the Wayne National Forest leases play a part in that, and Monroe County is geographically located on top of some really good geology. That is the fundamental basis of what we are talking about tonight.”
Chadsey noted he thinks the industry’s cycles should be described more as an “ebb and flow” rather than with the more commonly used “boom” and “bust” terms.
Jimmy Stewart, president of the Ohio Gas Association, agreed with the “ebb and flow”description, and said the industry is especially susceptible to changes in market forces — supply and demand — for natural gas, both locally and globally.
“Ohio is eighth or ninth in natural gas consumption,” Stewart said. “We used to produce only 10 percent of what we used. Now we produce 40-50 percent more than we use, so now Ohio is a net exporter of natural gas.”
Rebecca Heimlich of the American Petroleum Institute also noted how supply and demand affect industry production. She said there are 10 new natural gas-fired power plants either announced or under construction in Ohio right now, which will increase demand.
“If we produce more gas here to supply those new power plants, it will create 20,000 direct jobs in upstream and midstream production,” Heimlich said.
Both Stewart and Heimlich noted the current glut in supply of natural gas, creating lower prices, may be bad for producers but it is also good for manufacturers and consumers.
Jason Hamman, who serves as Monroe County’s economic development director and port authority director, gave an update on his work with JobsOhio and the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth. He has been cooperating with those agencies to market the area to prospective manufacturers and other businesses that would benefit from the county’s energy resources and location.
He also emphasized the benefits of the expansion of the oil and gas industry for the county’s tax base and for job creation.
“We have the best and largest stretch of developable real estate in the shale play up and down the Ohio River. I have been working with JobsOhio and APEG on an almost daily basis and there has been a huge uptick in interest in those properties over the past six months,” Hamman said.
Hamman highlighted new businesses already slated to come to the area — Mountaineer NGL, which will store natural gas liquids, and a new 400-megawatt, gas-fired power plant to be located at Center Port Terminal in Hannibal.
“NGL will be creating underground salt caverns to store natural gas liquids such as propane and butane,” Hamman said. “What has everyone excited is its potential to store ethane, in particular, related to the proposed PTT (Global Chemical) ethane cracker just about 10 miles up the road in Belmont County.”
Justin Trettel of Rice Energy said its midstream company, Strikeforce JV, already has 30 miles of pipeline in place, and 17 more miles under construction in Monroe County. He predicts in the next three to four years the company will increase its pipeline mileage to 300 miles across the county.
Hugh Caperton of EdgeMarc Energy compared the industry to a battleship.
“It doesn’t start on a dime or stop on a dime,” Caperton said. “We just want to bring more manufacturing back to this area.”
Jackie Stewart of Energy in Depth Ohio, an educational research arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said she was in Monroe County when the Ormet Corp. aluminum smelting plant announced it would be closing.
“There is a greater end game to all of this. I will never forget when Ormet closed. It was tragic. You had to be here to see how heartwrenching it all was,” Stewart said. “All of the economic development happening now is almost hard to believe unless you went through that.”
Stewart noted the importance of inexpensive energy for manufacturing many types of goods.
“We make things here, and guess what? You can’t make solar panels and wind turbines without the oil and gas industry,” she noted. “Six thousand consumer products are made from the industry. That is how big of a deal this is, and you are in the heart of it,” Stewart said. “Southeastern Ohio is lifting up the entire state right now.”
Carslund pleaded with all present to “support the effort” of the oil and gas industry.