Identifying Opportunities and Gaps in Infrastructure

Jan 25, 2018 Transportation & Infrastructure

The Tri-State Shale Summit

In late November, members of the Tri-State Shale Coalition and interested stakeholders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia gathered for the third annual Tri-State Shale Summit at Stark State College in Canton, Ohio.

The 2017 Summit was a forum to discuss current efforts promoting the region’s developing shale industries. The Summit addressed the question, “Where have we been and where are we going?” The agenda featured engaging sessions on the coalition’s work in transportation & infrastructure, marketing the region, research & innovation, commercialization, and workforce development. Power of 32 talked to four of the expert presenters who shared the key messages from their presentations.

Katie Klaber, managing partner for the Klaber Group and facilitator of the Tri-State Infrastructure Council, spoke in the Planned Work for the Future session on a panel addressing Current Public-Private Partnerships in the Region. The mission of the Tri-State Infrastructure Council is to collectively attract investment in infrastructure to enable economic growth in the Ohio River Valley.

Klaber’s presentation focused on what infrastructure needs to be developed for the tri-state region to be on par with competitor regions for petrochemical industry development. She highlighted five key infrastructure priorities that the Council has identified, and discussed some of the ways to fill the gaps to move forward.

#1: Connectivity of Pipelines and Storage for NGL

Klaber says that the region definitely needs natural gas liquid storage in order to provide certainty and to de-risk major capital investment. She points out that the Tri-State Infrastructure Council doesn’t envision one big storage hub. “We will more likely have a series of smaller storage capacities around the tri-state region,” she says. “In addition to storage, what we think is so important to keeping this resource close to home and adding value is the connectivity of the NGL pipelines. Not a hub and spoke but multiple options for getting liquids from one point to another. That is where companies have a lot more flexibility and diversity of supply. That is certainly the type of system that exists on the Gulf Coast – which we have very little of at this point.”

#2: Site Specific Infrastructure

Another key area that the Council has focused on is site specific infrastructure. How do you serve sites based on what is needed for those sites? “There has been a lot of discussion about site availability, but that has been limited to some mega sites that could house the next cracker or is more generally talked about as pad-ready sites,” explains Klaber. “We have been focused on the development of an extensive geographic information systems (GIS) database of the tristate region that maps the current assets, identifies gaps and determines how gaps can be filled.”

Some of the site-specific assets that the Council mapped include access to rail, water and sewer; where do we not only have rail service but more than one rail carrier; where are navigable waterways with barge loading and unloading; and where are the bridges and roadways that meet the weight restrictions to can carry the kinds of freight that is necessary to develop this petrochemical industry.

# 3: Reliable Lock and Dam System

According to Klaber, this is a need that is pretty well understood. “This is an area that we weren’t proposing to add a lot of new light to, but we wanted to reinforce that this is a very important issue especially for the businesses that rely on river transport.

#4: Community Readiness

A less tangible but equally important infrastructure need is community readiness – helping communities prepare for new opportunities. Klaber notes that a lot of communities in the region haven’t had a lot of reinvestment since the fall of some of the industrial anchors along the Ohio River Valley. But community readiness — including housing, workforce development and quality of life — is important. “It’s important to employers that their workforce doesn’t have to travel far, and it’s important for communities to understand and prepare for the benefits of growth as well as to take steps to mitigate the negative aspects.”

#5: Regulatory Approval

The last area that the Council is focusing on is what Klaber calls the regulatory regime. “With so much influence of local government, local authorities and other entities, and three different state regulatory regimes as well as many federal agencies, there isn’t a member of our Council that has not had capital investment delayed or discouraged because of regulatory drag,” says Klaber.

The Council is trying to bring to light to some of these entities just what is at stake on a project – some of this transportation infrastructure is what allows the overall job creation to go forward. “Nobody imagines that we don’t need regulatory approval – everyone understands that – it’s the delays and uncertainty that comes with new types of projects.”

Funding the Gaps

The Council is looking at Public-Private Partnerships (P3) to fund some of the infrastructure projects. Klaber says they have looked at established P3 programs in all three states and have talked with investment experts about the broader understanding of P3 opportunities in the country.  “Universities are building dorms with P3 funds,” says Klaber. “What other new and innovative models are possible to finance projects? For example, are there models that take water and sewer infrastructure into the hands of those who may be incented to invest new assets where municipalities don’t have that capacity?”

Collaboration at Work

The Council was formed in 2017 as a broad-based coalition with a shared interest in emerging opportunities. “Every member of the Council – across a wide range of industries – understood what was at stake for growing business opportunities in the tri-state region by developing the industry instead of just shipping NGL out of the region.”

Klaber says that the first year was focused on getting educated, identifying the opportunities and gaps, developing the robust GIS database, and initiating outreach to economic development groups and regulatory agencies. She sees 2018 as a “year of projects.”

Learn more about the Tri-State Infrastructure Council

Download Klaber’s presentation

This map shows available sites that are at least 20 acres large with more than one rail within 1,000 feet. This is an example of the multifaceted analysis to identify what sites are available, marketable and accessible.