West Virginia Department of Commerce Coal, Oil & Gas

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Coal, Oil & Gas

Coal, Oil and Gas in West Virginia

West Virginia’s abundant natural resources helped build America and today continue to be a major source of energy for much of the nation.

Oil in the Mountain State

Did you know that West Virginia was one of the earliest oil and gas producers in the country? In fact, our nation’s first president, George Washington, once owned oil fields in the Kanawha Valley.

In 1859, oil was discovered in the small town of Burning Springs in Wirt County. That discovery led to $60 million worth of oil being produced in less than five months and a group of instant millionaires like the locally well-known Rathbone family. To find out more about the state’s history of oil production, visit Parkersburg’s Oil and Gas Museum.


Natural gas powers America
West Virginia is ranked second in the nation for the number of active natural gas wells. Here you’ll find wells in 53 of the state’s 55 counties. Every year the town of Sistersville hosts the Oil and Gas Festival the week following Labor Day to celebrate the state’s rich oil- and gas-producing history.

Coal: West Virginia’s Black Gold

Coal is king in West Virginia, and has been since before the start of the American Revolution. In the early 1800s, coal became the fuel of choice for furnaces and fireplaces around the nation. Today, West Virginia is one of the nation’s highest producers of coal helping provide the major source of energy for 32 states.

coal miner re-enactorAt Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, visitors can ride into a restored mine for an authentic experience of what a miner’s daily life was really like.

The West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston also offers a glimpse into the role that coal has played in West Virginia.

Visit the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce in Williamson and see an entire “house” made of more than 65 tons of coal.

The 13-county National Coal Heritage Area encompasses historic districts bearing the physical remnants of the coal boom. Sites of interest include coal miners’ homes, company stores, company offices, railroad yards and other structures that defined life in early 1900s-era West Virginia.