WEST UNION - Dozens of officials Thursday gathered at a 50-acre farm in Doddridge County to commemorate the opening of a natural gas processing plant.
Numerous officials from the oil and gas industry and political officials, including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, gathered for a ribbon-cutting as MarkWest Energy Partners opened its natural gas processing facility.
Scott Lewis, an engineer for MarkWest, said the plant is the first of three to be built over the next year at the site. The first plant has already started operation. The second plant is under construction and will be completed next spring. Construction on the third plant will begin next year, officials said.
Photo by Jody Murphy
State Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel; Frank Semple; Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Paul Rady cut the ribbon commemorating the opening of a natural gas processing plant near West Union.
Each processing plant will process about 200 million cubic feet of gas a day, processing shale gas from area wells into propane, butane and ethane. Gas for the processing plant is produced from local, Antero-owned wells.
Officials said each plant will employ about a dozen people.
That does not include 100-200 contractors constructing the plants. MarkWest also has processing plants in Marshall and Wetzel counties.
MarkWest, a Denver-based company, has maintained assets in West Virginia and Kentucky since the 1980s.
Frank Semple, CEO of MarkWest, said the company's success would not be possible without support from the state and landowners, such as Dennis Powell, whose land is being used.
"Shale development would not be possible without landowners," he said. "We are proud to be part of the energy revolution."
The revolution has been taking shape in West Virginia for more than five years.
Paul Rady, chairman of Antero Resources Appalachian Corp., said the company- also a Denver-based company- sold its assets in Oklahoma and Colorado to concentrate on the shale fields in West Virginia.
"Shale is the lion's share of what we do," Rady said, noting the company is the number one or two producer of shale gas in the state, depending on the day.
Antero officials recently announced the construction of a 50,000-square-foot building in Bridgeport for office space. The company also has an office in Ellenboro.
The company has spent $700 million in Harrison and Doddridge counties on shale development, Rady said. He said Antero has 12 rigs in the two counties and employs 3,500 people on Antero projects.
The company has paid out $45 million in royalties to mineral holders. They expect to pay out more than $155 million next year.
Rady also noted compressed natural gas service stations will soon be opening along I-79, near Bridgeport.
Semple said a processing plant, such as the Doddridge plant, can influence shale development for a 100 miles.
In addition to processing plants, Powell's land contains a shale well pad, cattle and hay. It's located a stone's throw from his neighbors and U.S. 50. Officials said there was no plan to show these things operating in harmony, but it was a good observation.
"You see it all here," Semple said.
Tomblin said the plant demonstrates what can happen when everyone works together. Because of the continued development of shale in the state, Tomblin said he remains encouraged a cracker plant will happen in West Virginia.
Several state and county representatives attended the event. Dwight Moore, Doddridge County circuit clerk, said the county has not yet seen the industry growth funnel money into its coffers.
"But it's coming," he said.