WHEELING - Up to 400,000 barrels of Marcellus and Utica shale ethane, propane and butane will head south each day by 2016 because of pipeline agreements between MarkWest Energy and Kinder Morgan Inc.
As West Virginia officials maintain hope of attracting an ethane cracker plant - especially since Royal Dutch Shell still has not purchased the property from Horsehead Corp. needed to build Shell's planned ethane refinery near Monaca, Pa. - MarkWest and Kinder Morgan are not waiting around for someone to construct a cracker. Instead, they are moving to ship ethane drawn from West Virginia and Ohio to crackers elsewhere.
"This project will provide consumers on the Gulf Coast with access to a new source of natural gas liquids from the Utica and the Marcellus shale resource plays." Don Lindley, president of NGLs for Kinder Morgan, partner of MarkWest.
Greg Sullivan, area manager for MarkWest Energy, examines the ice around the turbo expander at the company’s natural gas processing plant near Cadiz between state Route 9 and U.S. Route 22. MarkWest, which processes gas in both Ohio and West Virginia, now plans to ship ethane and other forms of NGL to the Gulf Coast.
MarkWest, which has already invested billions of dollars for infrastructure in the Upper Ohio Valley, has contracts to process Ohio gas at its Cadiz, Hopedale and Senaca plants for Gulfport Energy, Antero Resources, Petroleum Development Corp. and Rex Energy. In West Virginia, MarkWest processes gas at the Mobley site in Wetzel County and the Majorsville complex in Marshall County, working for producers such as Chesapeake Energy, Magnum Hunter, Consol Energy, Noble Energy and Range Resources.
MarkWest plans to use its Liberty Ethane Pipeline to transport ethane from the Majorsville complex. The product will then head to the Gulf Coast via the ATEX pipeline or to Sarnia, Canada via the Mariner West pipeline.
"Ethane produced in the Northeast has the potential to become a key driver for the future expansion of the global petrochemical industry," MarkWest information states.
During the next month, MarkWest plans to start a second de-ethanizer at the Majorsville site. This will allow the company to distill 78,000 barrels of ethane drawn from Marcellus shale gas per day. MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale has said the company projects it will be able to de-ethanize 200,000 barrels of ethane daily by 2017.
The Kinder Morgan/MarkWest NGL project will convert 1,000 miles of 24-inch and 26-inch Tennessee Gas Pipeline now connecting Pennsylvania and Louisiana to allow the liquids to flow southward. Initial capacity will be 150,000 barrels per day, with expansion to 400,000 barrels per day available.
"We continue to provide producer customers operating in the Northeast shales with fully-integrated midstream solutions that will further accelerate the development of their prolific rich-gas acreage," said Frank Semple, chairman, president, and CEO of MarkWest.
Overall, Semple said MarkWest should be able to process over 4 billion cubic feet of Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas - dry methane, plus the NGL - per day by the end of 2014.