BENWOOD, W.Va. - A new, $2 million "drilling mud" facility is bringing hope of an economic rebirth to this small West Virginia city.
Fluids Management, a Division of AES Drilling Fluids LLC of Houston, Texas, plans to open by February the multi-million dollar plant in an industrial park in the small Ohio River town on Wheeling's southern border.
Fluids Management will serve as a drilling fluid vendor for the region's burgeoning natural gas drilling industry. Drilling fluid, also called drilling mud, is used to aid in the drilling of boreholes into the Marcellus and Utica shales.
While the new facility initially is expected to create only about a dozen full-time jobs, officials are pleased with the five-year deal. Benwood Economic Development Committee Co-Chair and Police Chief Frank Longwell said he is hopeful the project, which was a joint venture between the development committee and Mull Industries, is another step toward what he called the "rebirth" of the city and the CSX rail yard, that two years ago was vacant, and more growth for the city's industrial park.
"It's revenue and jobs," Longwell said while touring the new facility and surrounding property. The Marcellus Shale is "like a rebirth of our industry here. We feel that we have the real estate and transportation assets, which is a big thing."
Longwell said with new businesses such as Fluids Management transporting freight and supplies into the industrial park, it's "breathing new life" into the rail yard.
Fluids Management makes a synthetic oil-based drilling fluid called ABS-40 that is used in the drilling process, said Russell Marks, operations manager for Fluids Management.
"We basically rent the fluid to the customer ... whether it's Chevron, Chesapeake or whomever, and they use it to drill the well," Marks said. After the hole is bored, Marks said the drilling fluid is returned to the plant, where it will be "reconditioned" and used again.
''The drilling fluid helps you removes the cuttings from the well ... and (it also helps) run casings and complete the well," Marks said.
Other than helping to bore the hole, Fluids Management is not connected to the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract the natural gas.
At the site, more than a dozen large steel containers that will hold the drilling fluids are located on a concrete pad several feet thick as construction of the plant continues. The new Ohio River facility sits on a 180-foot by 120-foot concrete pad. When complete, it will hold about 20 large tanks that provide nearly 9,000 barrels of drilling fluid storage.
Marks said the company also will have several tanks to store calcium chloride water.
Locating in Benwood made sense for the company, he added.
"We can service our southwestern Pennsylvania customers, our West Virginia customers and southeast Ohio customers ... the logistics (were) good for us," he said.
Fluids Management has a regional office in Canonsburg, Pa.
McCloskey is a reporter for the Wheeling Intelligencer.