MARIETTA - Noble County apparently is the preferred location for a natural gas-processing plant that was initially planned for Monroe County just across the border, according to published reports.
A representative of Denver-based MarkWest Energy this week said plans now call for the plant to be constructed in Noble County, but he did not have information on the reasons for the change. Dan Campbell, vice president of finance and treasurer for MarkWest, was not available for comment.
In an interview with The Intelligencer in Wheeling, Randy Nickerson, chief commercial officer and senior vice president for MarkWest Energy, commented briefly on the switch.
"We thought it would be better to move it slightly to the west, so that puts it in a different county," he said.
Noble County is about 35 miles north of Parkersburg.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced in February that MarkWest was planning to construct natural gas-processing plants in Harrison and Monroe counties, along with a fractionation, storage and marketing facility in Harrison. The facilities are part of a joint venture with the Energy & Minerals Group to develop infrastructure for drilling programs in the Utica shale formation beneath eastern Ohio.
They are expected to create more than 40 long-term jobs with MarkWest, along with as many as 700 construction jobs.
No official announcement of the change could be found on the company's website, www.markwest.com. However, a PDF presentation on the site dated March 20 makes reference to a Noble facility.
Officials in both Monroe and Noble counties said they were surprised by the change.
Noble County Commissioner Bob Nau said he only learned about it Monday.
Although the commissioners haven't been contacted by the company and don't know the precise location being considered, he's optimistic about the development.
"It's good news for the county because there are going to be a few jobs and lots of construction jobs," he said.
Dan Greenlee, chairman of Team Monroe, a Monroe County economic development group, said a location was never publicly announced there and officials don't know why the move was made.
"We're as much in the dark as anybody else," he said.
While he said he's disappointed to see the project leaving the county, Greenlee sees a silver lining in the fact that it's not going too far.
"If it's going to be nearby, are we going to see a spill-over effect of that? Hopefully we will," he said.
That also means the project can still be a boon for local workers, said Bill Hutchinson, president of the Parkersburg/Marietta Building and Construction Trades Council.
"We have people that have built some of those type facilities in West Virginia," he said. "Just about every trade would be affected."
MarkWest has not announced a timeline for construction of the Noble County facility, but the presentation indicates it will be operational this year. Its initial capacity will be about 10 million cubic feet per day, increasing to 200 million in 2013.