MOUNDSVILLE - Some of the Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas produced locally may end up being sent to foreign countries, as Dominion Resources wants to export 1 billion cubic feet of the product per day, pending federal approval.
Dominion, which is in the midst of constructing a large natural gas processing plant along the Ohio River in Marshall County, is seeking permission from the U.S. Department of Energy to ship liquefied natural gas to any country with which the nation allows trade.
The company would ship the gas out of its Dominion Cove Point facility on the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Md.
"The facility is particularly well-situated to export gas production from the prolific Marcellus Shale and promising Utica Shale formations," said Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dominion. "It is in our nation's best interests to develop our natural resources responsibly and reliably. In the process, we will be able to improve the nation's balance of trade."
Liquefied natural gas, commonly referred to as LNG, is natural gas that has been supercooled to minus-260 degrees, at which point it turns into a liquid and reduces in volume by 600 times.
In this liquid state, the gas can be loaded into specially designed ships and transported to world markets.
The LNG should not be confused with natural gas liquids, or NGL. These substances include ethane, propane, butane and pentane, and are stripped away from the methane natural gas when that gas is shipped to market.
In its application, Dominion said exports of natural gas would be in the public's interest because studies show they could provide an enormous economic stimulus, provide energy price stability, promote the continued development of domestic natural gas and natural gas liquids, create thousands of new jobs in the oil and gas industry, increase tax revenues and improve the balance of trade.
Specifically, economic studies filed with the application show benefits from exports and upstream gas production over the 25-year proposed term could include:
Dominion spokesman Daniel Donovan said many of the new jobs would be created in the Marcellus Shale region of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but could not be more specific.
Donovan also said there is some lack of domestic demand for natural gas right now, noting this is part of the reason Dominion seeks to ship the gas to other countries.
"But the main reason is the increased supply. Not only from Marcellus Shale, but several shale plays in other part of the country. Our supply study only includes a small amount of Utica Shale, but increasing supplies from other shales," he said.
However, Donovan is confident the U.S. may be able to generate more demand for natural gas by using it to power vehicles of generate electricity in the relatively near future.