Natural Gas in the North: Major Investments in the Panhandle
May 16, 2012|
By Don Rigby
The Regional Economic Development (RED) Partnership, serving Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties, has worked hand-in-hand with corporations as well as with local representatives and business groups to ensure successes in all sectors of the local economy, including service, construction, manufacturing, education and health care industries. Recent developments and announcements from large natural gas companies, including Dominion Resources, Caiman Energy, Gastar, MarkWest Energy and CONSOL Energy, bring the promise of more than $3.7 billion in major investments to West Virginia—much of which will include the construction of processing plants and facilities as well as the growth and development of current processing facilities already in these counties. These investments are only the beginning of an economic investment cycle that some experts believe will last for a generation.
In February 2012, a $500 million investment by Dominion Resources to build a natural gas processing facility began taking shape in Marshall County to provide processing and fractionation plant technologies to Dominion Energy and Dominion Transmission. This processing facility will be able to process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day upon completion of the project’s first phase. The capacity is expected to double to 400 million cubic feet per day at the completion of the construction project. The plant is scheduled to be in service in December 2012. As construction efforts continue, Texas-based Chicago Bridge & Iron, the company hired to build the plant, has worked in conjunction with West Virginia Northern Community College’s New Martinsville and Wheeling campuses to prepare local residents for jobs in the area in the immediate future, as well as to develop a local work force with the knowledge and training for future construction projects related to the petrochemical industry.
By 2014, Caiman Energy will have invested more than $1.3 billion in Marshall County by providing processing infrastructure to the region. With the completion of the Ft. Beeler Processing Plant I, a cryogenic processing facility, in 2011 and the construction of an additional processing facility in January 2012, Caiman has joined with Williams Partners to launch a joint venture to develop infrastructure that can connect producers’ natural gas and natural gas liquids to the natural gas marketplace. These processing plants and infrastructure venues will separate the methane from other substances so methane can be sold by utility companies. The processing plants, in conjunction with the construction of the new fractionation facilities, will allow for the process of 520 million cubic feet each day with the fractionation capacity of 42,500 barrels of methane daily.
Gastar Exploration announced plans to invest more than $200 million in the Marcellus Shale field in the Ohio Valley in 2012—most of which will occur in the Northern Panhandle. Gastar currently operates five producing natural gas wells in Marshall County and holds leases on 79,000 acres for future development. Future plans to erect an additional 25 wells are in the works and construction on these wells is slated to begin later this year. According to Gastar officials, 80 percent of the company’s capital investments in 2013 will come to the state to fund well construction projects as well as the repair of local infrastructure, which has suffered damage from heavy equipment traveling to drilling sites. In addition to $2.5 million being spent to repave local roads, an additional $2.5 million will be spent to refurbish an aging state road to help relieve much of the truck traffic for local residents. Gastar will continue to utilize the Caiman Energy/Williams Partners processing plant in Marshall County.
MarkWest Energy, operator of the Majorsville processing plant in Marshall County, will more than double its processing capacity from 270 million cubic feet of gas per day to 670 million cubic feet per day. In addition, the company plans to install an ethane pipeline between its Majorsville and Houston complexes in order to keep up with the demands of the current natural gas supply. The ethane transport system will flow from Sherwood in Doddridge County and Logansport/Mobley to the Majorsville plant, to Houston, PA, and then on to proposed Mariner West to Sarnia, Ontario. With the completion of the pipeline construction, MarkWest will increase ethane production capacity to 115,000 barrels per day by 2014.
With the completion of these construction projects and the development of these major investments, the oil and natural gas industry in West Virginia will support more than 40,000 new jobs and an additional 17,000 jobs over the next three years. As development continues, figures once often thought unreal very well may be achievable for our region. This is an opportunity the Ohio Valley is prepared to realize and embrace. Through strong partnerships in both public and private sectors, our region is poised to work together to maximize the benefits for the lives of our communities and citizens of our region who call West Virginia home.