Oak Grove Plant Set To Start Pumping in May

MOUNDSVILLE – The two de-ethanizer superloads that recently traveled to the Williams Energy Oak Grove natural gas processing plant stretch 41 yards into the air, while 600 contractors busily work to prepare the facility to start pumping this month.

Investing roughly $4.5 billion to process Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas at three different sites in Marshall County, Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams plans to soon bring the Oak Grove plant along Fork Ridge Road online, according to spokeswoman Helen Humphreys. The company’s Fort Beeler plant along U.S. 250 and the Moundsville Fractionator along the Ohio River are already operational.

“We have grown quite a bit up here since June,” Humphreys said regarding the Oak Grove plant, that sits on more than 300 acres owned by Williams.

Last week, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said the agency would not cite Williams for the April 5 explosion of a 12-inch pipeline because there was no groundwater contamination.

However, Humphreys said her company is determined to find out why the blast caused a fire that scorched trees in more than a 2-acre area and forced residents along Middle Grave Creek Road to evacuate the area.

She also said Williams is identifying safety procedures to use at Oak Grove that should help protect nearby residents from similar problems.

“We will eventually have the siren sounding at noon every Wednesday,” Humphreys said.

She said construction delays on certain portions of the plant pushed back the date for the alarm’s initial alert.

“We have very developed risk management plans. We work well with emergency officials,” Humphreys said. “We plan to be here for a long time, so we want to be as cooperative and open with the community as we can be.”

When the Oak Grove plant starts running, natural gas from local well sites will head into the facility via pipeline. Once on site, the gas will go through several refining steps to strip the dry methane away from the natural gas liquids. The methane will then be sent to an interstate pipeline to be sent to the market as natural gas, while the butane, propane and other NGLs will head to the Moundsville fractionator by pipeline for further processing.

However, the ethane will not go to Moundsville, as it will remain at Oak Grove to be distilled by the dual 510,000-pound de-ethanizers. Humphreys said plans currently call for the ethane to be sent to customers via a pipeline.

Humphreys said there will be a third “superload” making the journey from Benwood to Oak Grove in May, but the machine will be lighter than the de-ethanizers. She said this should allow contractors to make the trip in a single day, rather than three days.

During the startup phase at Oak Grove, which Humphreys said could last for a few months, those driving on Fork Ridge Road should expect to see occasional flaring.

“We will use the flaring during the commission phase, and later if there is ever a problem,” she said.