MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Columbia Pipeline Group will be putting $1.75 billion into natural gas infrastructure designed to support Marcellus and Utica shale gas production areas in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Officials with the NiSource subsidiary made the announcement on Tuesday.

One of the two main projects within the new investments is the proposed Ohio and West Virginia pipeline — referred to as Columbia Transmission’s Leach XPress project — which will cover 160 miles and include supporting compression and related facilities.

“We need more infrastructure to meet the current demand of our producers and our customers,” Scott Castleman, spokesperson for Columbia, told MetroNews. “It will stretch from Marshall County, West Virginia to southeastern Ohio and be able to deliver 1.5 billion cubic feet (of natural gas) per day.”

Castleman said three compressor stations are planned for the pipeline and one of those stations will be in Marshall County.

The Tomblin Administration applauded the announcement.

“These are big investments. In fact, I think it might be one of their largest investments ever,” said Keith Burdette, state Commerce Secretary, of the plans. “This particular pipeline actually will provide us an opportunity to continue to expand the Marcellus field in West Virginia and maximize that opportunity.”

Castleman said, once in operation, the planned pipeline would add to the capacity for Columbia Transmission’s system and connect regional gas supplies to additional markets. The product from Marshall County will eventually be hooked to the company’s other lines in Kentucky.

Commerce Secretary Burdette said the state’s resources are paying off in big ways.

“There’s no way we can consume that all here (all the gas being produced) if we built for a long, long time,” Burdette said. “So in order to be able to take advantage of the market, they’ve got to get that natural gas somewhere else.”

Castleman said the project will produce construction jobs, but there are also more permanent jobs available with the company.

“We’ve had to beef up our staff from engineers to project managers to project schedulers,” he said. “These type of projects and the increase in demand in natural gas has generated a lot of opportunities for people in this region to find high-paying jobs right here at home.”

A second planned project would provide additional capacity through Columbia Gulf’s Rayne XPress project which spans a corridor from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Appalachia.

According to information from Columbia Pipeline Group, the company has already started reaching out to affected communities with a goal of starting construction work on both projects in 2016. Castleman said there would be open house events in Marshall County once the path for the underground pipeline is determined.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will oversee environmental reviews of the two projects.

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  • wvrocks

    "West Virginia to supply more natural gas to nation" ..... yet West Virginia will still remain one of the poorest states in the nation.

  • Harpers Ferry

    COAL is West Virginia! Except for everywhere else in the nation

  • Raging Moderate

    Coal will continue to supply energy to the US for many years to come, albeit in smaller numbers. As NG increases, coal diminishes, but both will continue to be in the mix. Coal may be weakened, and gov't regulation does play a role, but coal is not dead. Solar and wind have their place but can never supply 100% of the nation's needs. Hydroelectric is pretty much maxed out. Conservation is also part if the equation.

    • Richard

      Hydr is the only green energy that has real room to grow just look at the willow island project. As for natural gas if it was not for the EPA natural gas would have to be 3$ per mcf just to compete with coal.

      • Jeremy

        LOL, Nice one.

  • Raging Moderate

    I figure once those affected communities have heard CPG out, they are capable of making up their own minds about it.

    Am I correct in assuming that permit fees and severance taxes would be in line with coal or lumber?

    I'm not sure that these gas works would cause our NG prices to go up, although other factors might, like those mentioned by Bookman. Your summer bill went up 12%; these pipelines are still in the planning stages. I'm not sure there's a connection there, if that's what you mean.

    I'm really hoping that the new jobs in construction and permanent jobs will be filled by West Virginians to the max.

    Mr. Hytonen, I need sources for the cancer, nightly nosebleeds, and slow deaths, please.

  • war on . . .

    What you see here is one of several unspoken truths about the political sham called 'the war on coal'. Alternatives to coal are cheaper to burn and transport. Its the market, not the EPA, that is dooming WV coal.

    • Richard

      Not so natural gas has to be under 3$ a mcf just plain fact. And natural gas under 4$ per mcf can not pay for the wells being drilled.

    • The bookman

      No, what you are witnessing is the investment in the necessary infrastructure to replace coal. Natural Gas isn't new. Its protected market growth is attractive to investment. If the government has outlined a plan to prefer one fuel source over the other, where do you think private investment will flow. This alternative will only be cheaper until demand for NG outpaces availability.

      Not only will NG prices increase in average price, but the volatility will increase as well. During periods of high usage, supplies will become strained, allowing for wide swings in spot price. Example was this past January where the monthly record spot price at Henry Hub, the US benchmark, approached $20. Compare to today's close at $3.97/mmBtu. You can't store it like coal in a big pile on site. We are accustomed to looking at oil prices, at least over the last few years at the $100/bbl value. Swings from the $80's and $110's have been customary and newsworthy. Those are moves of +/-15-20%. Consider the volatility of NG and the above numbers. Those are 400-500% swings.

      Just wait until we begin to stretch supplies and become more reliant on NG for our national base load. It will no longer be the cheaper alternative, but hedging against coal won't be possible, as our all of the above strategy will have all our eggs in one basket. Maybe solar and wind can bail us out.

      • BigFoot1970

        Actually, there are storage wells to what you call stockpile that natural gas is stored in.

        • The bookman

          I didn't say you couldn't store it, just that you can't store it as simply as coal, or as conveniently as coal. There are several different ways to store it. The cheapest ways require the loss of gas, and are limited by the rate at which you can recover it from storage. These are not useful for responsive peak usage. The more expensive salt formation storage solution allows you to recover all gas from storage, and also allows for a more rapid recovery, but sites are limited to geologic formations that are not necessarily evenly distributed. The most expensive is LNG tank storage that allows for peak usage, but it is very expensive and limited due to the capacity of the tank. There have been some limited experiment with underground unlined LNG storage, but not to a degree deemed acceptable by industrial standards as feasible. As I stated earlier, I think the transition is inevitable, but the industry needs to mature a little, get its infrastructure in place, before significantly taking market share from coal. They just can't deliver generation capacity at peak without significantly straining their ability to keep up.

      • TWL, P.E.

        Oh, yes we can store NG, The bookman. We've been storing it in depleted underground depleted gas reservoirs (since the 1930s), salt caverns and coastal NG liquifaction facilities.

        • Aaron

          How many days worth of electrical generation can be stored so that if an interruption to the delivery mechanism is encountered, electrical generation will continue?

          • The bookman

            Not that simple. We currently use 26Tcf per year, with the capacity to store 4Tcf, with 2.6Tcf currently in storage. The locations are scattered around the country with variable capacities that do not necessarily mimic demand needs. The storage locations are also site specific, as most are abandoned salt mines and domes. So they still require pipeline supply to end user. There are approximately 400 sites utilized for storage. Our capacity for storage is approaching 7:1 consumption vs capacity, and that ratio is increasing over time as consumption growth is outpacing storage construction. Some locations may be properly protected from demand spikes while others are not adequately supplied. The EIA is the source of the data and is easily accessed on the Natural Gas section of their site. Of course as coal generation is replaced by gas, the storage shortfalls will only increase as demand continues to tick upward.

        • The bookman

          You can't store it LIKE coal, not that you can't store it. Coal is stable, and easily stored on site. NG requires a delivery mechanism and is constrained by the on demand availability through that transportation network. Of course it can be stored, but not easily, and not in the large quantity necessary at the end user site.

      • worker bee

        I think the $20 spot gas from last January was at the New York gateway. Henry Hub prices haven't been above $10 since late 2008, although the did spike in Jan/Feb 2014. With GOM drilling coming back on line and inland shale productivity on the rise it will take some time before NG prices are sustained above $10. There is no question the market is converting to NG, though, and I agree that sooner or later demand will balance out supply and we'll have higher prices.

        • The bookman

          I apologize, and you are correct. The highest spot was just over $8. The $18.48 spot price I quoted was from 2003, Henry Hub. Still a 100% swing in price from high this year to present close. The Transco (NY Gate) topped $77MMBtu in January. The point is the volatility of NG due to the lack of infrastructure. I'm all in on gas, and don't take my comments as negative. We need both fuels, and allow true market transitions to take place that are utility driven. I believe we are making poor choices by forcing the transition to NG before the industry is ready for the responsibility. Thanks for the correction.

  • Rodney Hytonen

    Except that "nation" is Japan.

    A myth - and a hoax.
    Typical lndustry centuries-old propaganda.

    Numbers don't lie, and business does things for ONLY one reason.
    Prices in WV have been going up almost every month since this fracking thing started - and not by a little. This month our "level billing" SUMMER gas bill was again up 12%.
    Previous raises have been even higher - and I don't mean in the winter.

    Why? It's easy.
    If a businessman can get $14+ in Japan,
    why would he ever sell at U.S. prices of $3.85?
    And yes, he'd rather not pay shipping
    (though the current abusive buildout of drilling, pipelines, compressors and PORTS; pretty much obviates that.)
    But the point is, what they DO sell here will be at three to four times last year's prices-
    or else it goes to Japan.
    And West Virginians are being driven from their value-destroyed homes, while those who can't afford to leave stay and breathe the fumes from the cancer ponds, see their surface rights abused, their town turned it a txic industrial park, and suffering the nightly nosebleeds that promise a certain slow death.

    • hillbilly

      Dominion Hope raised my monthly budget last month from 90$ to $120... and gas is now over-supplied, and they have applied to PSC for a 3% rate reduction??? Doesn't make sense to me.

    • worker bee

      Actually, the wholesale spot price of natural gas is about 1/3 of what it was in mid 2000's. That is certainly due to an abundant supply resulting from horizontal drilling and modern completion techniques. BTW, gas wells have been fractured for decades in WV - easily since the mid 20th century.

    • The bookman

      Mr Hytonin,

      You are right about one thing. NG is going up...and up....and up. A valuable commodity increasing in demand backed by government ensured success=sure thing.

  • Aaron

    It's not only in northern West Virginia and was feeling is occurring. I was at a site in Putnam County where an exploratory drill is occurring over the next several months in which drillers will attempt to reach depths of 10,000 feet in search of gas.

    It is time for our legislature to address permit fees and severance taxes to ensure that West Virginia benefits from the fuel leaving our state. We've been talking about a way to maintain our current infrastructure; this is it.

  • Monty Burns

    I wonder if the Columbians will make it snow here!

  • hillbilly

    There are a lot of small communities in WV that would like to have natural gas instead of expensive heating oil or propane for heat.. How about someone considering that for a market?

    • Marion

      + 1 !!!

  • ViennaGuy

    Good news!

    • Marion

      What about tax breaks for all WV residents ?! A lot of gas going to be leaving our state. Where's the tax money going to. ?!

      • Pickle Barrel

        Tax breaks? You've got to be joking. The way the economy and budget are in WV, we'll be seeing tax increases next year.

      • Wirerowe

        How much of the crude oil and gasoline that West Virginians use is produced in West Virginia?' Who is going to pay for very expensive pipelines to serve a small rural customer base?

      • ViennaGuy

        I'm all for tax breaks. Your questions should be directed to the Legislature.