CHARLESTON, W.Va. — China Energy committed to using West Virginia as its entry point into U.S. markets even before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher this week, according to the director of the WVU Energy Institute.

For that reason, Dr. Brian Anderson said he’s optimistic about the future investments in the Mountain State from the integrated company which is considered the largest power plant in the world.

Dr. Brian Anderson

Those investments in state shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects are projected to climb to more than $83 billion.

“What we need in West Virginia to create new jobs is to add value to our resources instead of just extracting and shipping out and this company does that with their coal resources,” Anderson said.

“They make polymers, they make plastics, they make liquid fuels from coal in China.”

China Energy is the product of a recent merger between Shenhua Group, a state-owned coal company, and Guodian Group, an energy producer.

For years, Anderson has worked with Shenhua which he said has already invested in West Virginia.

The relationship between WVU and Shenhua dates back to 2002 when a partnership was created for joint research on direct coal liquefaction technology.

Last October, Shenhua signed a Memorandum of Understanding with West Virginia University to make primary investments in the Mountain State as the company moved into the U.S market.

Several years, Shenhua also partnered with Energy Corporation of America, out of Charleston, West Virginia, on a joint natural gas venture in the Marcellus shale, Shenhua said.

This latest Memorandum of Understanding calls for projects to proceed in phases over the course of 20 years.

Those projects will include chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives along with power generation.

Thrasher indicated Brooke County and Harrison County had tentatively been identified as potential power plant sites for possible investments from China Energy.

Energy Solutions Consortium, based in Buffalo, N.Y., already has two power plant projects in those areas in development.

The state Public Service Commission has approved the Harrison County project. The Brooke County project is still under review.

“That’s my understanding is that it’s for China Energy to be an equity partner providing funds to help move those projects along,” Anderson confirmed on the power plant portion of the China Energy package on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“Between the two projects, we’re talking about certainly well over $1 billion that would need to be invested to build the plants and so China Energy’s looking at these two plants as a really good investment opportunity for them and to help move those projects along.”

Those investments had not been finalized as of Friday.

In general, “It does take years for companies to pull the trigger on multi-billion dollar investments,” Anderson said when asked about the non-binding nature of a Memorandum of Understanding.

However, he noted, such large projects have to start somewhere.

“Boy, would we love it in West Virginia, yes, if $84 billion gets invested, but we’re going to work with them and make sure that we do realize at least a significant fraction of these projects,” Anderson said.

“I think that the company, itself, they are seriously interested in this investment.”

The China Energy memorandum with West Virginia was the biggest among several deals signed during President Donald Trump’s state visit to Beijing this week. The total value of the deals could be as much as $250 billion, Reuters reported.

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