Planned pipeline clears another hurdle

WARREN – The proposed natural gas liquids pipeline that would link the Mahoning and Shenango valleys to the Gulf Coast has cleared another hurdle with approval by directors at one of the companies involved.

The joint venture between Boardwalk Pipeline Partners and Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Partners, initially announced in May, was approved in June by Williams’ board of directors. The pipeline will deliver mixed natural gas liquids, or NGLs, from the producing areas to new fractionation and storage facilities, and connect to petrochemical facilities and pipelines along the coasts of Louisiana and Texas.

If plans progress, the line could be fully operational by 2015.

Phase one of the project would transport some 200,000 barrels per day of mixed NGLs in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Phase two will increase capacity to 400,000 barrels per day to meet market demand.

Because there is no ethane cracker in the Utica and Marcellus regions, some companies already are shipping the product for cracking in other regions. Others are simply burning it off via flaring, according to Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

“We would like to be able to use this resource for something more than making smoke in the air. We are flaring off enough ethane already that we could probably supply an ethane cracker,” said DeMarco.

Officials have said the infrastructure challenge with natural gas liquids in the Northeast is slowing drilling and isolating liquid supplies from the robust markets in the Gulf.

Plans call for the pipeline to transport the liquids from areas like Mercer and Columbiana counties to a transmission system in Hardinsburg, Ky., where it would connect to another transport system to Eunice, La. The proposal also calls for a processing plant to be built in Louisiana.