There are three main shale gas plays in the United States: the Appalachian, the Permian, and the Haynesville. Of the three, two are shared by Texas and New Mexico. The third runs through several northern states: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Combined, these three plays are the majority of the reason for America’s energy independence. In the northern Appalachian play, the largest areas of natural gas are the Marcellus and Utica Shales. The Marcellus Shale is the primary reason West Virginia is beginning to take steps away from its coal tradition, and it is why West Virginia is the seventh-largest natural gas producer in the United States.
Role model for the country
Before 2009 there was almost no natural gas production in West Virginia. Now, they produce six times more than they need. Plus, they are looking to be world leaders in natural-gas-powered electric plants. The Longview Power Clean Energy Station that is being built there is going to be the first of its kind, using natural gas and solar power to increase electrical output while also increasing efficiency. And because it is using natural gas, it will have vastly reduced emissions. This is all well and good for a power plant, but can an entire state increase fossil fuel production while increasing efficiency and reducing emissions? Yes, it can.
Natural gas production isn’t the only thing increasing in the state. West Virginia’s population has been steadily rising. People need transportation. The number of miles driven by vehicles has also risen. Cars, trucks and people consume a lot of energy; altogether they make West Virginia one of the largest consumers of energy per capita in the country. Sounds like an emissions nightmare, but take a look at the facts:
- 74% reduction in nitrogen oxides
- 94% reduction in sulfur dioxide
- 64% reduction in carbon monoxide
- 47% reduction in ammonia
West Virginia emissions are down, all of them.
Role model to the world
West Virginia is just shadowing the trend in the rest of the United States. Emissions for the entire country are down. The United States’ usage of natural gas increased 10% in 2018. And yet, according to the EPA, since1970 particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and lead are down 74%. This is in spite of the fact that the overall U.S. population has increased and more miles are being driven now than ever before.
Countries around the world are desperately trying to find a way to reduce their own emissions; they need look no farther than the United States. Increasing natural gas usage decreases power costs, boosts the economy, provides reliable power – and benefits the environment.