They didn’t know then what you know now

On trips and during our Shale Crescent USA presentations, we were surprised to find many people in Texas and other areas didn’t know the first ethane cracker was built in Clendenin, West Virginia, in the 1920s and started the modern petrochemical industry.

Our region was in the petrochemical industry while the Gulf Coast was still running cattle. It was our abundant natural gas and natural gas liquids at the time that allowed the petrochemical industry to start in West Virginia. Many of the products and processes we use today were developed here.

A number of companies like Union Carbide had their technical centers here. Many of the retired Ph.Ds. that worked at these tech centers are still living in the Kanawha Valley.

When our oil and gas industry production declined in the 1970s and 1980s, so did our petrochemical industry. Some plants closed. Others moved to the Gulf Coast or to other parts of the world where energy was cheaper and more plentiful. The shells of some of these plants or the vacant acreage can still be seen along our rivers.

The world has changed again. Thanks to the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, we have been able to unlock the natural gas and natural gas liquids in reservoirs like the Marcellus and Utica shales. In less than 10 years the Shale Crescent USA has gone from producing 3 percent of the USA’s natural gas supply to 30 percent.

The United States has become the leading natural gas producer in the world. The Shale Crescent USA is now the most profitable place to build a petrochemical plant.

The region is drilling some of the most technically sophisticated wells in the world, going 8,000-10,000 feet deep vertically with horizontal laterals stretching 2-3 miles underground. When these wells are hydraulically fractured 50 or more times, a world class natural gas well is created.

Environmentally, the air and water here are the cleanest I have ever seen in my lifetime.

You probably know or have heard, “If the Shale Crescent USA were a country we would be the third largest natural gas producer in the world.”

In the last two weeks, I have been on eight radio shows across the country as a guest. Two of the shows were on West Virginia stations. One, Jim Blasingame “The Small Business Advocate” is nationally syndicated. The West Virginia stations and Blasingame, who has become a good friend, know this. They understand petrochemicals. The other stations are clueless. What I heard from the other hosts was, “I had no idea we had that much gas in this country.”

Sadly, most people from outside our region have no idea where their energy comes from. They just know when they turn up the thermostat or flip a light switch the heat and light appear. We know it takes fuels like natural gas and coal to make this happen.

This week I heard U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin speak in Charleston. He told us about a discussion he had with Bill Gates. Mr. Gates has been working hard on renewables, and he told the senator if we go to renewables for our electricity we can plan on about five hours of electricity a day.

I like my heat and light 24 hours a day. People can die without electricity. As I understand, Mr. Gates is looking for the energy source beyond natural gas and coal and he knows it is not wind and solar.

People across the country are surprised to find out almost all gas is “fracked gas” unless it comes from our bodies or a landfill. They also don’t know that hydraulic fracturing is responsible for the petrochemicals that make automobiles, cell phones and thousands of other products like windmills and solar panels possible.

They had never thought about where these products come from. They did not know that oil and natural gas not only fuel our military, they are responsible for the weapons and clothing for our troops.

They had never thought about what would happen if we had to depend on OPEC or Russia for the fuel and petrochemicals our military needs.

My oldest son did two Navy tours in the Middle East before the U.S. Shale Revolution. Our Navy’s job was to keep oil flowing to the USA from the Middle East. The world has now changed.

All these radio hosts had ever heard about were the supposed evils of “fracking.” They did not know that hydraulic fracturing is over 70 years old. They thought it was a new thing. They did not know that all wells are fractured. Russia, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries must fracture their wells. Fracturing does not create the pollution they were told it does. I have lived next to wells for over 30 years. I watched them get fractured. Today they quietly produce energy to light and heat homes and provide the petrochemicals for products we use every day. Deer graze and rabbits play at the wells in my neighborhood.

I am learning the rest of the country is just beginning to understand what you have known for years. What I typically hear is, “I had no idea.” Or “We never thought about things that way before.” Many “smart people” in places like Washington DC, New York or California still don’t know what you do about energy and petrochemicals. We should never put ourselves and our Region down. We are doing great things because we have smart industrious people living here who have common sense. With a little formal technical training, we will have a workforce second to no one in the world.

Be proud. Our future isn’t behind us. It is ahead of us. Working together we can make it a brilliant future for us and generations that will follow. It happens by what we all do day by day.

Kozera is the director of marketing and sales for Shale Crescent USA. He has more than 40 years of experience in the energy industry with a master’s in environmental engineering. He is the author of four books and numerous published articles.