West Virginia’s presence on the world energy stage jumped significantly on Thursday, Nov. 9, as China Energy Investment Corp. Ltd., one of the world’s largest energy companies and a long-time research and development partner of West Virginia University, announced an agreement that will bring $83.7 billion to the state.

WVU will work closely with the state Department of Commerce and other state officials to help coordinate the investment, with funding focused on developing an Appalachia Storage and Trading Hub, itself a key piece of reinvigorating the state’s and region’s petrochemical industry.

“This is a game-changer for the state of West Virginia,” said Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute. “By collaborating with global companies like China Energy to invest in our state through joint research, business development and demonstration opportunities, we begin to move West Virginia forward by expanding and diversifying our state into newfound prosperity and success.”

“Instead of sending jobs offshore, we are bringing hundreds of thousands of jobs stateside and directly into the state. Thanks to this strategic partnership, West Virginia is on the global stage. Now is the time to seize these business development opportunities that will help expand West Virginia’s energy market and provide cleaner, cheaper energy across the United State and beyond.”

Through a rich history of collaboration and partnerships with China Energy, from joint research and training to educational exchanges, WVU has demonstrated that higher education can play a major role in molding research relationships into business development. The newly-established China Energy is a result of an ongoing merger between the Shenhua Group and China Guodian Corp. and China’s largest primary and secondary energy supplier.

This investment also indicates West Virginia Forward is gaining momentum as reflects the initiative’s five guiding principles: building on existing assets; growing and diversifying beyond the sectors already established; finding disruptive trends; considering regional impact; and finding the quick wins.

“This investment by China Energy is the culmination of years of relationship building, both by West Virginia University and the state,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “It is also an excellent example of the possibilities that we have been discussing within the West Virginia Forward initiative with our partners at the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University.

The signing of the strategic cooperation memorandum of understanding between the West Virginia and China Energy in Beijing was witnessed by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. This MOU recognizes West Virginia’s abundance of natural resources, technical sophistication and apt human capital, broadcasting to the world that the Mountain State will be a priority area for investment opportunities in the United States, and was signed by West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher.

The scope of this investment will be all across the value chain including infrastructure such as the Appalachia Storage and Trading Hub, electricity from advanced natural gas power plants, chemical and polymer manufacturing and high-end chemicals.

WVU and Shenhua’s collaboration began in July 2002 with joint research on direct coal liquefaction technology, and the first agreement was signed in December 2003 to promote joint research on the economic and environmental impacts of coal liquefaction in China and to encourage technical collaboration on coal and energy projects.

The WVU-Shenhua work on coal liquefaction continued in the field of fossil energy technology development and utilization between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.

Then on Oct. 27, WVU and Shenhua signed a partnership agreement in the areas of: comprehensive strategic cooperation to establish West Virginia as the priority area for Shenhua Group’s investment into U.S. markets; natural gas power plant development; shale gas development, including investment in upstream and downstream businesses, technologies in clean coal and power, and training.