HANOVERTON - After months of speculation on the location where a planned $400 million shale gas collection and processing plant will be constructed, a $1.8 million Columbiana County real estate transfer Friday has lent a clue.
The 117-acre site at 11687 state Route 644, which is about a mile south of the small Columbiana County village of Hanoverton, is believed to be the site that will bring hundreds of jobs to the area.
The property, located at the intersection of state Route 644 and Tunnel Hill and Hagan roads in Hanover Township, was sold for $1.8 million to Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC by Bill O. Burns, trustee, according to real estate transfer records filed Friday at the Columbiana County Auditor's Office.
Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC is a subsidiary created for the project by M3 Midstream, which is one of the partners in the joint venture along with Chesapeake Midstream and EV Energy Partners.
The construction project first announced in mid-March is expected to bring big demand for pipefitters, welders, carpenters and other skilled trades workers. The plant is expected to draw workers from Trumbull and Mahoning counties. The Chesapeake plant offers numerous direct construction jobs, along with pipeline work to distribute natural gas.
The property transfer is for somewhat fewer acres than previously anticipated. In March, George Francisco, M3 Midstream's executive vice president for finance and corporate development, had said the company was in the process of negotiating to purchase 160 to 170 acres for the complex. At that time he said he expected the purchase to go through within ''the next month or so. It's going to happen quickly."
At that time, Francisco had said the company was eager to do business in Ohio.
"We're excited to be doing business in Ohio. Historically, we have always been good neighbors ... We're going to do things the right way," he said.
The plant will serve as a collection and compression site for natural gas extracted by shale drillers in the region, with an initial capacity of 600 million cubic feet per day. It includes a cryogenic processing plant that extracts natural gas liquids (NGL) from the shale gas, such as propane, butane and ethane.
The NGLs will be piped from the plant across Carroll County to a separate $500 million shale gas storage and transfer hub being constructed in Harrison County by MarkWest Energy Partners as part of the project.
The dry natural gas from the Hanoverton plant will be transferred into local natural gas pipelines.
None of the officials from any of the companies involved in the Hanoverton project immediately returned phone calls or emails seeking comment for this story. However, an employee in the Columbiana County auditor's office said a cover letter attached to the real estate transaction stated the land was to be used for a gas processing plant. The employee said he made a notation on the transaction to check on the property in a year to see if the plant had been constructed, which would increase the taxable value of the land.
Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck said it is his understanding the Burns property is where the plant is to be built, "and we're very excited."
M3, which is also known as Momentum, is to run the plant, which will be built over five years, with the first phase expected to become operational by May 2013.
Chesapeake Energy and its affiliates are the majority partner in the venture, with a 59 percent interest, followed by M3 with a 33 percent interest and EV Energy at 8 percent.
Tom Giambroni is a reporter for the Morning Journal in Lisbon.