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Big energy player expanding Charleston footprint

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A major player in the natural gas development in West Virginia wants to expand its footprint with a new 60,000 square foot building that will serve as its eastern headquarters.

Energy Corporation of America, a privately-held and family-operated oil and natural gas company is headquartered in Denver. The company has about 300 employees and owns more than a million acres in Appalachia.

The company presented its plans to the Charleston Municipal Planning Commission. The Commission reviewed the site application Wednesday at its regular meeting. 

The commission approved ECA's plan unanimously, pending approval following an inspection of a sanitary line at the site.

The company announced it will be building a new headquarters site at Charleston's Northgate Business Park Wednesday at a Charleston Municipal Planning Commission meeting. Kyle Mork, chief operating officer for ECA, said the company has reached capacity in its current building.

"It is a very exciting time for natural gas companies," Mork said. "Thanks to technological advancements, like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and opportunities offered by shale gas and oil, the industry is experiencing a renaissance.  This renaissance is leading to unprecedented growth throughout the industry and I am pleased to say that ECA is growing as well. At present, our eastern headquarters is located in the Energy Center on 56th street in Kanawha City.  And, while the location has served us well for more than 25 years, space is limited."

According to a release from the company, ECA is partnering with Jarrett Construction, Terradon Corporation, and Associated Architects to design and construct the new building.  The new eastern headquarters will ultimately house about 200 employees in Charleston.

"As one of the few large oil and natural gas companies remaining in Charleston, we are proud to renew ECA's commitment to the Mountain State, and specifically its capital city," Mork said.  "In 2013, we are celebrating our 50th anniversary and the construction of our new eastern headquarters at Northgate is representative of our commitment to another 50 years and indicative of our plans to develop the Marcellus, and other horizons, from this new office for decades to come."

The company owns and operates around 4,600 wells, 5,000 miles of pipeline and holds 1 million acres of property in North America. ECA was founded in Glenville in 1963 and has headquartered its eastern operations in Charleston since 1987.

The company has also logged a significant track record of community service. The company is a partner in education with the Chamberlain Elementary School, underwriting a new playground and supporting wellness programs. The ECA Foundation donates about 7 percent of profits back into communities where it operates.

"It's just become a wonderful home for us," Mork said. "We've got activity all over, we have wells where we operate from Kentucky to New York, so there's no one place that's going to be perfect. … We like Charleston, we've got a lot of great people here."

Mork said the company is showing it wants to stay in Charleston for a long time. He also anticipates continued growth with a slow employment expansion over the next several years, bringing "quality, high-paying jobs."

ECA plants about 5,000 trees in areas where it operates and says it utilizes horizontal drilling techniques to minimize surface damages. It also has developed a way to treat wastewater onsite and avoid discharging it.  

This move to protect the environment and drill safely, Mork said, is reason to believe in the sustainability of the company.

"We have fracked literally thousands of wells over the last fifty years … we've never had an incident from hydraulic fracturing where there was a leak or water contamination," Mork said.

He said that a lot of concerns about the expanding industry has been abated over the past two years because of the successes of gas drillers. Mork said ECA, in particular is a unique company among other drillers.

"We're very, very different than our competitors," Mork said. "That difference has become more exaggerated over the past five years.… A lot of our competitors, quite frankly, weren't big enough to compete in the Marcellus when it was first getting active."

"… We were able to embrace and grow when Marcellus took off. We're one of the few large, privately-held, family-owned companies that are competing these days."

Mork said the company is able to operate differently because of its family-owned and privately held status. He said because it isn't beholden to quarterly reports to stockholders, the company can focus on longer-term growth.