WEIRTON - Shale supporters say domestic production could surpass that of Saudi Arabia and even Russia within a matter of a few years.
Rayola Dougher, senior economic adviser for the American Petroleum Institute, told civic and government leaders at a luncheon meeting Tuesday that U.S. producers "have turned a corner, a big corner, and the expectation is for it to continue."
Dougher said the U.S., the world leader in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology, is expected to be positioned within the decade to export natural gas, adding that prices are dropping and that's "good news for anybody who makes anything in the U.S."
OUTLINES OPPORTUNITIES — Steve Roberts, marketing manager for Wellsburg’s Eagle Manufacturing, said shale drilling offers “tremendous opportunity” for job and economic growth in the Mountain State. Roberts was one of three speakers at a luncheon meeting Tuesday at DeeJay’s for Energy Speaks, a public awareness campaign sponsored by the Just Beneath the Surface Alliance. -- Linda Harris
A recent study by the American Chemistry Council suggests shale already has created more than 412,000 jobs, 17,000 of them high-paying positions in the U.S. chemical industry; fueled $132.4 billion in U.S. economic output; generated more than $4.4 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue annually; prompted a $32.8 billion increase in U.S. chemical production; and spurred $16.2 billion in investments in new petrochemical and derivatives capacity.
Those numbers, too, are expected to swell, she said.
"It has great ramifications for the state," said Jack Harrison of the American Petroleum Institute. "...It's not only the drilling, but all the downstream (opportunities), that's where the real implication will be for us."
Harrison said shale oil and gas is "a low-cost domestic fuel, available right here."
"There are decades and decades of drilling to be done," he said. "It's a true game-changer."
Steve Roberts, marketing manager for Wellsburg's Eagle Manufacturing, said the shale deposits here in West Virginia are rich in liquids, giving them added value.
Shell's decision to build a multi-billion ethane cracker in nearby Monaca, Pa., makes the Northern Panhandle a prime location for downstream industries, particularly since the area has rail, river and highway access and is strategically located "within 500 miles of major industrial consumers."
"We have a tremendous opportunity in West Virginia, if we just ... embrace the industry," he said. "The technology is proven, the job creation is proven. There will be challenges along the way, but we have the resources" to overcome them.
The panelists said there's potential for another cracker in the Mountain State, as well as downstream industries.
"There are a couple things going on behind the scenes, other than Shell, by companies looking to do something," Roberts said.
The luncheon, held at DeeJay's in Weirton, was held in conjunction with Energy Speaks, an informational program sponsored by the Just Beneath the Surface Alliance.
(Harris can be contacted at email@example.com)