CHARLESTON – West Virginia leaders continue to praise the $83.7 billion agreement with China Energy as an amazing opportunity.

Gov. Jim Justice and Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher spoke Nov. 13 at a news conference, saying the deal could lead to a variety of petrochemical projects over the next 20 years but said they couldn’t provide many details because of confidential aspects of the memorandum of understanding.

Early on Nov. 9, the West Virginia Department of Commerce announced an agreement with China Energy to invest in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing products in the state. Gov. Jim Justice called it the largest private investment in state history.

The first two projects will be natural gas power plants, likely in Harrison County and Brooke County, according to Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing with China Energy President Ling Wen as President Trump looked on.

West Virginia’s $83.7 billion agreement was the largest among several signed with states. The total amount of those agreements is about $250 billion. To put the agreement in perspective, West Virginia’s gross domestic product last year was $73.4 billion.

The Department of Commerce said China Energy officials had made several trips to West Virginia and the memorandum represents the first of several expected commitments by the company. The work will happen in phases over 20 years, and it will focus on power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage of natural gas liquids and derivatives.

China Energy is the world’s largest energy company with more than 200,000 employees.

“We have had a complete turnaround in West Virginia in 2017,” Justice said. “Just think, we started with a $500 million dollar deficit. And now, the jobs are coming back and where there was despair there is now real hope.

“All of these things have created a momentum to bring prosperity and goodness to the people of our state. While this is a great day for West Virginia we truly believe there are thousands of more great days to come.”

The executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association says the agreement is “a huge step for the West Virginia economy, and that it means more jobs in a wide range of areas including the manufacturing sector.

“Energy and manufacturing are vital to West Virginia’s future and natural gas is at the core of both,” Anne Blankenship said, adding that she is working with federal and state officials to continue to pass legislation that will foster this type of investment.”

She also said the $83.7 billion investment is “a fulfillment of the promise of the shale gas revolution.”

“We implore state and federal officials to pass policies and initiatives that promote more of this type of investment in our natural gas resources to make a brighter economy for everyone,” Blankenship said. “West Virginia must support legislation and rules that make development as possible as it is in surrounding states while avoiding any possibility of hampering natural gas power production if we are to see the true value of this investment.

“This $84 billion builds upon countless billions of dollars invested by other companies in all parts of the natural gas business in every part of West Virginia.”

Blankenship said other projects helped spur China Energy’s move. Those include ethane storage facilities and proposed natural gas power plants in Harrison and Brooke counties.

“We hope state and federal officials will keep the ball rolling when it comes to promoting the oil and natural gas industry after Thursday’s announcement of a multi-billion investment in the state” Blankenship said.

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