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West Virginia   West Virginia Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: July 20, 2017

Overview

Coal is West Virginia's most abundant mined product.

West Virginia is at the center of the Appalachian Mountain region and shares in that region's abundant fossil energy and renewable resources.1,2 The state's boundaries follow mountain ridges and rivers, giving West Virginia an unusual outline that includes two panhandles in the northern part of the state. One of the 10 smallest states in area, West Virginia stretches from the Ohio River, where the state's northern panhandle is wedged between Pennsylvania and Ohio, to a point 70 miles north of North Carolina on West Virginia's southern border with Virginia. Temperature and precipitation vary with elevation, which ranges from less than 300 feet above sea level on the Potomac River in the eastern panhandle to more than 4,800 feet on the state's highest peak.3,4 The mountain ridges that run northeast to southwest along the eastern side of the state are covered by forests and separated by narrow river valleys. In all, more than three-fourths of the state is forested, providing abundant biomass potential, and the narrow, wind-swept mountain ridges in the eastern part of the state have ample wind resources.5,6 To the west, the flat-topped highlands and rounded hills of the Appalachian Plateau region contain much of West Virginia's coal, the state's most abundant mined product. Rivers that cross the Appalachian Plateau have abundant hydroelectric power potential as well.7,8 With the development of production from the Marcellus and Utica shales in West Virginia, natural gas, crude oil, and natural gas liquids are contributing increasing amounts to the state's energy economy.9

Even though West Virginia is a significant consumer of energy, in the top fourth among the states on a per capita basis, the state is a net energy supplier to other states, providing almost 5% of the nation's total energy, largely because of its coal production.10,11 The industrial sector is the largest end-use energy-consuming sector in West Virginia. The transportation sector is the second-largest and uses less than three-fifths as much energy as the industrial sector.12 Mining, including coal, crude oil, and natural gas extraction, is a large and energy-intensive part of the state's economy. The energy-intensive chemical, primary metals, petroleum-refining, and coal industries are also major economic activities in the state.13

Petroleum

Crude oil production in West Virginia, almost all of it from the Marcellus shale, has nearly tripled since 2012.

West Virginia's crude oil proved reserves are modest; however, production has nearly tripled over the past five years.14,15 The state's first oil field began producing just before the Civil War, and peak production of 16 million barrels per year was reached in 1900.16 Although the state's annual crude oil production in the 21st century is much less than 1% of the nation's total, production has been rapidly increasing since 2012, and, in 2016, West Virginia wells produced about 8 million barrels of crude oil.17 Much of the state's crude oil production had been from stripper wells (wells producing fewer than 10 barrels of oil per day).18 However, recent drilling in the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia's northern panhandle discovered liquid hydrocarbons, including crude oil and natural gas liquids. Most of the recent increased production has come from the northern part of the state.19,20

West Virginia has one oil refinery, located on the Ohio River at Newell, at the extreme northern tip of the northern panhandle. The Newell refinery can process more than 22,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day.21 The crude oils processed are Appalachian grade paraffinic crude oils, particularly Pennsylvania grade, that are gathered from facilities throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and New York. The crude oil arrives at the refinery by truck, barge, and pipeline. The refinery produces paraffinic specialty products and ultra-low sulfur fuel products that are sold in the regional market. The refined products are used in a variety of applications, including compounding motor oils; gear oils; greases; pharmaceutical and agricultural spray oils; and high-temperature rubber.22 The Ohio River, on the state's western border, serves as a major petroleum product transportation route.23

Per capita petroleum consumption in West Virginia ranks below the national average.24,25 More than three-fourths of the petroleum consumed in the state is used as transportation fuels.26 West Virginia allows the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline.27 There are no ethanol plants in West Virginia, but there are 33 ethanol fueling stations selling E85, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% motor gasoline.28,29

Natural gas

West Virginia is in the leading natural gas-producing area in the nation, and the state's natural gas reserves and production have increased with drilling in the Marcellus and Utica-Point Pleasant shale formations.30,31,32 West Virginia is the ninth-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation, largely because of shale gas production. Natural gas production from shale wells surpassed the production from all other natural gas wells in the state for the first time in 2011, and, by 2014, annual production exceeded 1 trillion cubic feet for the first time. In 2015, shale wells accounted for almost nine-tenths of the state's natural gas production, and the state's shale gas reserves exceeded 19 trillion cubic feet.33,34,35,36 Additional natural gas resources exist in West Virginia's conventional natural gas fields and in the state's many coal fields as coalbed methane, although coalbed methane production and proved reserves are small.37,38,39

West Virginia is the ninth-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation.

West Virginia is crossed by several thousand miles of interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines.40 Natural gas moves into and out of the state via the interstate pipeline systems, entering West Virginia from the surrounding states, primarily from Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and exiting to Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. On balance, more natural gas leaves the state than enters because the amount of natural gas produced in West Virginia is much more than the state's natural gas consumption.41,42,43 New pipeline projects have come online in recent years to move natural gas from the Marcellus producing areas of West Virginia to markets in the Northeast, Midwest, and Gulf Coast, and to expedite development of the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shales.44,45 Many natural gas processing plants and pipelines have been constructed or expanded in north central West Virginia. The processing plants separate dry natural gas from the associated natural gas liquids being produced from the Marcellus Shale. Pipelines have been built to transport natural gas liquids from Appalachia to the Texas Gulf Coast, to eastern refineries, and to the Midwest and southern Canada.46,47,48,49

West Virginia has 31 underground natural gas storage fields, 30 in depleted natural gas reservoirs and 1 in an existing aquifer.50,51,52 Those fields have a total storage capacity of about 530 billion cubic feet of natural gas and account for almost 6% of the nation's total underground natural gas storage capacity.53 The proximity of that storage capacity to northeastern markets makes West Virginia an important supplier to the region during the winter months when natural gas demand peaks.54

Because of the many miles of pipeline in West Virginia, as much or more natural gas is consumed for pipeline and distribution use as is consumed by any end-use sector. Well, field, and lease operations use even more than the pipelines. The industrial sector is the largest natural gas consumer among the end-use sectors. The residential sector, where about two-fifths of West Virginia households use natural gas for home heating, is the second largest. The consumption of natural gas for electric power generation has increased but is much less than in any other sector.55,56

Coal

West Virginia is among the top three states in the nation in recoverable coal reserves at producing mines, and the state accounts for more than one-tenth of the nation's coal production.57,58 Coal has been an important part of West Virginia's economy for more than a century. The existence of coal in West Virginia was first reported in the early 1700s, but large-scale mining did not begin until the mid-1800s.59 In the 21st century, West Virginia is the second-largest coal producer in the nation, after Wyoming. The state is also the largest producer of bituminous coal.60 Coal deposits underlie all but two counties, both of which are located in the state's eastern panhandle. Although coal occurs in 53 of the state's 55 counties, only 43 counties have economically recoverable reserves.61 All West Virginia coal is bituminous, but sulfur content varies across the state. The Central Appalachian region, which includes the southern part of West Virginia, is the nation's primary source for bituminous coal that is relatively low in sulfur. Coal from the Northern Appalachian region, which includes northern West Virginia, has a relatively high sulfur content.62 Most of West Virginia's coal production and reserves are found in underground mines.63,64

West Virginia is the second-largest coal producer in the nation.

About three-fourths of West Virginia's mined coal is shipped out of state, mostly to almost two dozen other states, but also to other countries. The rest is used in state.65,66,67 In addition to the coal that stays in West Virginia, coal arrives from states in the surrounding Appalachian region. Coal shipments move into and out of West Virginia by rail, barge, and truck. However, some coal is transported in state and from Pennsylvania by tramway, conveyor, or slurry pipeline. Almost all the coal consumed in or shipped from West Virginia goes to the electric power sector. Most of the rest is delivered to coke plants in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio.68,69

Electricity

Coal-fired power plants account for nearly all of West Virginia's electricity generation, and 9 of the 10 largest power plants in the state, by capacity and generation, are coal-fired.70,71 Most of the rest of the state's electricity generation is from wind, hydroelectric, and natural gas-fired facilities.72 West Virginia is one of only seven states east of the Mississippi River that does not have any nuclear power plants.73

West Virginia generates much more electricity than it consumes. Although more than two-fifths of West Virginia households use electricity as their primary source for home heating, retail sales to all customers account for less than half of West Virginia's net electricity generation.74,75 As a result, West Virginia is a net supplier of electricity to the regional grid, and is among the five top states in the nation in net interstate sales of electricity.76

Renewable energy

Less than 5% of the West Virginia's electricity generation comes from renewable resources, primarily hydropower and wind energy.77 Hydroelectric power accounts for less than 2% of the state's net electricity generation.78 It has long been used in mountainous West Virginia, and the state's oldest operating hydroelectric power plant began operating in 1909. West Virginia's largest hydroelectric facility, with more than 100 megawatts of capacity, was built in the 1930s, and the newest, with a capacity of 80 megawatts, began operating in 2001.79,80 Industry, electric utilities, and independent power producers each provide a significant share of the state's utility-scale hydroelectric generation.81

Power generation from wind energy is on the increase, and, since 2009, wind's contribution to the state's net generation has almost doubled.82,83 Most of West Virginia's wind energy potential is on the narrow ridges in the mountainous eastern third of West Virginia.84 There are almost 700 megawatts of installed wind capacity in West Virginia, and, recently, wind energy has contributed slightly more than hydropower to the state's net electricity generation, although, like hydropower, still less than 2%.85,86

In 2009, West Virginia passed an alternative and renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) that required investor-owned electric utilities and retail suppliers with more than 30,000 customers to acquire 25% of their retail electric sales from eligible alternative and renewable energy resources by 2025. The state was one of the few in the nation that had allowed the use of a variety of alternative, non-renewable technologies, including advanced coal technology, coalbed methane, and natural gas, to meet the RPS requirement. In 2015, West Virginia became the first state to repeal its renewable portfolio standard.87,88

Endnotes

1 Appalachian Regional Commission, The Appalachian Region, accessed June 21, 2017.
2 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), West Virginia Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 21, 2017.
3 NETSTATE, The Geography of West Virginia, The Land, accessed June 21, 2017.
4 Law, Kevin, "West Virginia's "Wild and Wonderful" Climate," Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, West Virginia's Climate, The CoCoRaHS 'State Climates' Series, accessed June 21, 2017.
5 West Virginia Division of Forestry, West Virginia Statewide Forest Resource Assessment (June 14, 2010), p. 3.
6 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, West Virginia Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, accessed June 21, 2017.
7 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Profile Overview, All coal mines, Hydroelectric Power Plant, and Tight Oil/Gas Play Map Layers, accessed June 21, 2017.
8 West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, Physiographic Provinces of West Virginia, revised May 22, 2017.
9 Dinterman, Philip A., 2015 Marcellus Shale and Utica‐Point Pleasant Production Summary, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (September 22, 2016).
10 U.S. EIA, Rankings: Total Energy Consumed per Capita, 2014, accessed June 21, 2017.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015 , Table P5A, Energy Production Estimates, Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Energy, in Trillion Btu, Ranked by State, 2015, and Table P5B, Energy Production Estimates, Renewable and Total Energy, in Trillion Btu, Ranked by State, 2015.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F30, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2015.
13 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, GDP and Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, All industries, West Virginia, 2015.
14 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, as of December 31, 2015.
15 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Field Production of Crude Oil, 2012-16.
16 West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, History of WV Mineral Industries, Oil and Gas, accessed June 17, 2017.
17 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual Thousand Barrels, 2011-16.
18 U.S. EIA, West Virginia 2009 Distribution of Wells by Production Rate Bracket.
19 Downing, Bob, "Chesapeake pleased with oil results in West Virginia Marcellus shale," Akron Beacon Journal (February 23, 2013).
20 Dinterman, Philip A., 2015 Marcellus Shale and Utica‐Point Pleasant Production Summary, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (September 22, 2016).
21 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report (June 2017), Table 1, Number and Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by PAD District and State as of January 1, 2017.
22 Ergon, Refining & Marketing, Ergon-West Virginia, Inc. (EWV), accessed June 22, 2017.
23 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Planning Center for Expertise in Inland Navigation, Petroleum and Petroleum Products, accessed June 22, 2017.
24 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C11, Energy Consumption by Source, Ranked by State, 2015.
25 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01).
26 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
27 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Reformulated Gasoline, accessed June 22, 2017.
28 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Profile Data, Environment, accessed June 22, 2017.
29 U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Alternative Fueling Station Counts by State, Public and Private, updated June 22, 2017.
30 U.S. EIA, Top U.S. Oil and Gas Fields (March 2015), Table 2, Top 100 U.S. gas fields as of December 31, 2013.
31 Dinterman, Philip A., 2015 Marcellus Shale and Utica‐Point Pleasant Production Summary, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (September 22, 2016), p. 5.
32 U.S. EIA, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves, Year-end 2015 (December 2016), Table 4, U.S. shale plays: natural gas production and proved reserves, 2014-15.
33 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, 2011-16.
34 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, West Virginia, 2011-15.
35 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals from Shale Gas, 2007-15.
36 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Shale Proved Reserves, 2015.
37 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, 2015.
38 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Coalbed Methane Proved Reserves, 2015.
39 U.S. EIA, Coalbed Methane, Estimated Production, Annual, 2015.
40 U.S. EIA, About U. S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Estimated Natural Gas Pipeline Mileage in the Lower 48 States, Close of 2008, accessed June 22, 2017.
41 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, West Virginia, 2010-15.
42 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Total Consumption, Annual, 2011-16.
43 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2011-16.
44 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Pipeline Projects, accessed June 23, 2017.
45 U.S. EIA, "New infrastructure boosts West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania natural gas production," Today in Energy (July 30, 2013).
46 U.S. EIA, "New pipeline projects increase Northeast natural gas takeaway capacity," Today in Energy (January 28, 2016).
47 West Virginia Department of Commerce, "Growing natural gas production in West Virginia," Press Release (February 16, 2017).
48 Brickle, Jennifer, "Surging NGL Production Drives Infrastructure Projects In Marcellus, Utica Plays," American Oil and Gas Reporter (December 2012).
49 Enterprise Products Partners L.P., Operations, NGL Pipelines, accessed June 23, 2017.
50 Sunoco Logistics, Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) Segments, accessed June 23, 2017.
51 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, 2015.
52 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Number of Depleted Fields, accessed June 23, 2017.
53 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Number of Existing Aquifers, accessed June 23, 2017.
54 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, accessed June 23, 2017.
55 U.S. EIA, About U. S. Natural Gas Pipelines, based on data through 2007/2008 with selected updates, Underground Natural Gas Storage, accessed June 23, 2017.
56 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, West Virginia, 2011-16.
57 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, West Virginia, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
58 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 14, Recoverable Coal Reserves and Average Recovery Percentage at Producing Mines by State, 2015 and 2014.
59 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 23, 2017.
60 West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey, History of West Virginia Mineral Industries-Coal (July 16, 2004).
61 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2015.
62 West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training, West Virginia Coal Mining Facts (October 10, 2012).
63 Milici, Robert C., and Kristin O. Dennen, Production and Depletion of Appalachian and Illinois Basin Coal Resources, Chapter H, The National Coal Resource Assessment Overview, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1625-F (2009), p. 5-6.
64 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2015 and 2014.
65 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve by Mining Method, 2015.
66 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2015 and 2014.
67 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015, Domestic and Foreign Distribution of U.S. Coal by State of Origin, 2015.
68 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), By Coal Origin State, West Virginia, Table OS-28, Domestic Coal Distribution by Origin State, 2015.
69 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), By Coal Destination State, West Virginia, Table DS-46, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
70 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), By Coal Origin State, West Virginia, Table OS-28, Domestic Coal Distribution by Origin State, 2015.
71 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B.
72 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Electricity Profile 2015, Tables 2A, 2B.
73 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.10.B, 1.14.B.
74 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Map of Power Reactor Sites, U.S. Operating Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors, updated May 2017.
75 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, West Virginia, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
76 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 5.4.B.
77 U.S. EIA, State Electricity Profiles, accessed June 24, 2017.
78 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.17.B.
79 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B.
80 The West Virginia Encyclopedia, Hydroelectricity, updated May 20, 2013.
81 U.S. EIA, Form EIA-860 Detailed Data, 3_1_GeneratorY2015, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data-Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
82 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B.
83 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.14.B.
84 U.S. EIA, West Virginia Electricity Profile 2015, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2015.
85 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, West Virginia Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, accessed June 24, 2017.
86 American Wind Energy Association, West Virginia Wind Energy, accessed June 24, 2017.
87 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.10.B, 1.14.B.
88 Heeter, Jenny, and Lori Bird, Including Alternative Resources in State Renewable Portfolio Standards: Current Design and Implementation Experience, Technical Report NREL/TP-6A20-55979, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (November 2012), p. 6.
89 Fried, Rona, "West Virginia: First State to Repeal Renewable Portfolio Standard!" SustainableBusiness.com (January 23, 2015).