DATE: February 6, 2018
Over the past year, oil and gas industry plans to build a petrochemical refining and storage hub along the Ohio River have steadily gaining traction. Proponents hope this potential hub, which would straddle Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, could someday rival the industrial corridor found along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.
Those plans center around creating what is known as the Appalachian Storage Hub, which received a major boost on November 9 during a trade mission to China attended by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. At that trade mission, also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the China Energy Investment Corp. announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to invest $83.7 billion into the planned storage hub over 20 years. For comparison, West Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 was $72.9 billion.
Though called the Appalachian Storage Hub as a broad-sweeping term, in practice the hub could encompass natural gas liquids storage, a market trading index center, a key pipeline feeding epicenter, and a petrochemical refinery row. Its prospective development has been spurred by the current construction of a $6 billion petrochemical refining facility in Pennsylvania owned by Shell Oil.
A “major concern we have about the whole complex is that it will encourage a second or third wave of gas fracking in our region, from the Marcellus, the Utica, and the Rogersville field, which is a much deeper layer of shale gas and oil and has been recently tested and a few commercial wells have been built into it,” Robin Blakeman, project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
Climate change will push the Ohio River and its tributaries into uncharted waters, setting off economic and environmental crises like never before across a 13-state region.
That’s the conclusion of a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that hits close to home. It found that flooding, drought and power failures could become more frequent in Kentucky and Indiana — and the rest of the Ohio River basin.
The study concludes that the most dramatic effects are likely two decades away. But changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and the time to start bracing for “a new normal” and making plans to adapt is now.
The Ohio River alone provides drinking water to 5 million people, including nearly 1 million supplied by the Louisville Water Co.
Think it’s a good idea to build a storage hub for fossil fuels along a river that’s increasingly likely to flood? Has everyone already forgotten about Houston?