Gas processing plant dedicated

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP – The scale of the Mahoning Valley’s shale boom extended its powerful economic reach into Springfield Township with Monday’s dedication of the $150 million Hickory Bend cryogenic processing plant.

Gov. John Kasich assisted officials of Pennant Midstream, a joint venture between NiSource Midstream Services and Harvest Pipeline, with a symbolic ribbon-cutting Monday morning where more than 100 people turned out.

The plant separates dry gas from natural liquid gas liquids, or NLGs, and is expected to begin shipping the first of 200 million cubic feet per day to the M3 Momentum fractionation plant in Kensington in December.

It is one of a handful of processing plants being constructed in eastern Ohio to treat and process natural gas products extracted from the Utica Shale. The plant’s natural gas gathering pipeline system extends through northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, represents a $375 million initial investment in the region.

Robert C. Skaggs, president and CEO of NiSource, said the Hickory Bend system employs more than 2,000 people and will invest billions in the region.

“This will be the fountainhead of energy in Ohio,” he said, then added to the 100 people in attendance, “You’ve made it good to be here.”

Skaggs lauded Kasich as one of the most vocal believers and supporters of the project.

Kasich said coming to Ohio was “the better decision between” Ohio and Pennsylvania while noting that the anti-frac problem isn’t a problem with “us or the companies” but with sons whose mothers have to get them out of the house and into jobs.

The early concern was on whether they were going to hire Ohioans, Kasich said but quickly noted NiSource has made a commitment to hire from within the state and is in the process of training now.

The Hickory Bend plant has supported about 500 construction jobs.

Carlton Ingram, business manager for Local 66, said there was no greater example of economic development than being an associate on the pipeline.

Local educators are involved with training future employees and in light of the scope and range of the Utica and Marcellus shale plays “adjacent technologies” must be identified for diversification … so if a torpedo hits one part, there are others left, Kasich said.

“Manufacturing is beginning to think about how to take advantage of it so everything seems to fit. We just need to take advantage of it.

“Everything I hear, the deposits we have in Ohio are good,” Kasich said, adding, “the roll out was a little slow partly due to (shale) formations. Basically wet gas with dry gas … and basically separating the wet from the dry gas. The challenge in the oil industry is making the oil flow.”

Springfield Township Trustee Robert Orr said the message is there is hope that greater days are ahead and David Mustine, managing director of Energy, Polymers and Chemicals for Jobs Ohio, said the plant was “very important for the development of the Utica.”

Officials said Hickory Bend is wrapping up the installation of pipe in Fairfield Township and Bluegrass Pipeline, another system, will also have a presence in the township.

A group of some 20 demonstrators shouting outside the plant on State Line Road during Monday’s dedication were of little disruption to those inside.