Thrasher: Tariffs Shouldn’t Derail $83.7 Billion Chinese Investment in West Virginia

Photo by Casey Junkins West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher speaks Tuesday during a West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association conference at Oglebay Park.

WHEELING — West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said President Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariff on steel should not derail China Energy’s plan to build $83.7 billion worth of ethane crackers, power plants and related shale natural gas infrastructure.

In November, Thrasher joined Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing to sign the memorandum of understanding for the Asian firm to invest in West Virginia’s Marcellus and Utica shale field. Tuesday, Thrasher gave an update on the endeavor while speaking to attendees at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association conference at Oglebay Park.

“We don’t think those tariffs are going to impact the situation,” said Thrasher. “We feel like it’s a fundamentally, really good, win-win situation for both China Energy and our country.”

Upon the China Energy announcement last year, John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University, said the dollar figure is enormous. He said the state’s annual gross domestic product, the total value of all goods and services produced, is about $75 billion.

Then, Trump’s announcement of tariffs on foreign metal earlier this year led some to question whether this would impair the project.

However, Thrasher said Tuesday he sees positive signs, as he said Chinese officials continue traveling the state to evaluate potential projects.

“We’ve had over 15 delegations arrive from China, some multi-tripped, doing their due diligence on various sites,” he said. We feel like that’s progressing nicely. We’re very hopeful that in the near future, there will be an announcement of those first projects.”

“So far, so good,” said Thrasher.

A project Thrasher mentioned as one that could receive funding from the Chinese investment is an $884 million natural gas power plant in Brooke County. In February, officials with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia issued the siting certificate for this project.

Other infrastructure could include pipelines, compressor stations, processing plants, ethane crackers and storage facilities.

Meanwhile, information association Executive Director Anne Blankenship provided shows that natural gas production continues growing in the Mountain State. The last year for which complete numbers on an individual company basis is 2016.

These are the production amounts produced by company in 2016, expressed in billions of cubic feet (Bcf):

∫ Antero Resources — 477.3

∫ EQT Corp. — 310.7

∫ Southwestern Energy Co. — 114.7

∫ HG Energy — 91.1

∫ Ascent Resources — 42

∫ Jay-Bee Oil & Gas — 36.6

∫ Arsenal Resources — 36.3

∫ CNX Gas Corp. — 28.3

∫ Northeast Natural Energy — 23.6

∫ Tug Hill Operating — 23.5

According to Cabot Oil & Gas, 1 Bcf provides enough energy for 559 trips to and from the moon.

Also speaking Tuesday, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee said with coal, oil and natural gas, the Mountain State features significant potential for economic growth.

“This is our moment,” he exclaimed.

The conference continues this morning at Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge.

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