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EQT, Southwestern leaders speak about current state of WV's oil and gas industry (WV News)


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The leaders of two of West Virginia’s top energy producers recently sat down for a wide-ranging discussion on the state of their industry and its importance to the Mountain State’s economy.

Clay Carrell, executive vice president & COO of Southwestern Energy, and Toby Rice, president & CEO of EQT, participated in a panel titled “Natural Gas and West Virginia’s Future,” during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Business Summit.

The discussion was moderated by West Virginia University President Dr. E. Gordon Gee.

Southwestern Energy, which was founded nearly 90 years ago as a utility in Arkansas, established its presence in the Appalachian region in 2010, Carrell said.

“Then we had a big acquisition in West Virginia in 2014,” he said. “Now the West Virginia asset is the asset that gets the majority of our capital expenditures. It’s where we see the most growth.”

EQT, which is known as the largest natural gas producer in the country, produces more than 4.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, Rice said.

“EQT has a very deep history,” he said. “It started as a utility and was one of the companies that transitioned to be a shale producer.”

In 2017, EQT acquired Rice Energy, the company Rice founded along with his brothers, Rice said.

“It was a company that started out of an apartment to a $6.7 billion sale to EQT,” he said. “Now the shareholders have elected me to be the new leader of EQT and ensure the best practices get transferred so we can have a greener, friendlier and more profitable energy business.”

While pricing for both natural gas and natural gas liquids has taken a downturn in recent years, Southwestern Energy has attempted to weather the storm by implementing efficiency measures, Carrell said.

“We supplemented the leadership team with some new people, and we started really working on being as quality of a operational execution company we could be and as efficient as we could be, understanding the cyclical natural of commodities prices and making sure we were resilient when those commodities prices were in one of their downturns,” he said. “That has served us well so far this year.”

As the commodity continues to go down, Southwestern has continued to lower its capital costs and operational costs thanks to improvements in technology and refinements of procedures, Carrell said.

“That execution in cost reduction has allowed us to keep deploying capital, even though commodity prices are lower than what a lot of people had thought they we would be as we came into 2019,” he said. “As we look to 2020, we’re going to have to continue that.”

EQT has also responded to lower prices by deploying new technologies and working to increase operational efficiency, Rice said.

“That’s always been the answer to low prices,” he said. “But things are very challenging right now.”

Continued advances in technology have allowed Southwestern Energy to reduce its overall environmental impact, Carrell said.

“Southwestern prides itself on going a good environmental steward in the communities that we work in,” he said. “Technology is allowing us to see more accurately and more cost effectively where we have methane emissions so we can go correct those. The company has below a 1% number for fugitive air emissions and we pride ourselves in that. We want the communities where our organizations work to be good stewards and for the people to proud of the fact that we’re doing the right things there.”

His company recently undertook an acid mine reclamation project in Muddy Creek in Greenbrier County, Carrell said.

“It was pretty rewarding to see the pictures of these waterways that were orange due to the acid mine draining and now they are clear and going into the Cheat River,” he said. “There’s actually fish spawning in that area also, which is bringing those parts of the community back to life.”

Senior Staff Writer Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or

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