MOUNDSVILLE - Riding along U.S. 250 in Marshall County between Moundsville and Cameron, one should notice a large natural gas liquids processing plant and pipeline under construction.
With $150 million already spent and $200 million more on the way over the next 18 months, Dallas, Texas-based Caiman Energy is making major investments in Marshall and Wetzel counties. The Marcellus Shale formation underlying West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as portions of Ohio and New York, is the company's target.
"The Shale area under Marshall and Wetzel counties contains one of the best rich gas resources in the entire Marcellus," said Jack Lafield, chief executive officer for Caiman Energy. "The potential for this region of the Marcellus Shale is huge. Caiman will develop and grow its assets as the play expands."
Dallas, Texas-based Caiman Energy is laying a 25-mile pipeline in Marshall County to connect the Fort Beeler cryogenic gas processing facility, to a fractionation plant to be located on the Ohio River.
Unlike Chesapeake Energy, AB Resources and other natural gas drillers rapidly expanding operations in West Virginia, Caiman acts only to gather and process the gas, rather than actually produce it.
"We provide the service of gathering natural gas from the wells drilled in northern West Virginia, processing the gas for the removal of the natural gas liquids, and delivering market quality natural gas to major pipelines for consumption throughout the Northeast," Lafield said.
Currently, Caiman has completed 40 miles of gas gathering pipelines in Marshall and Wetzel counties, with another 70 miles under construction.
Caiman's processing plant on U.S. 250 will separate what are known as "natural gas liquids" from the natural gas stream as it is delivered from the wellhead. The natural gas liquids - which can be processed into propane, butane, ethane and natural gasoline - can then be resold, according to the website, www.naturalgas.org.
"In most instances, natural gas liquids (NGLs) have a higher value as separate products, and it is thus economical to remove them from the gas stream," information from the website indicates.
The Fort Beeler cryogenic facility, located about 9 miles southeast of Moundsville, should be completed and ready for operation early next month, employing about 10 workers. It will separate the natural gas liquids from the natural gas itself by chilling the gas stream to a temperature of -120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the natural gas liquids are collected, they will be put into a 25-mile pipeline Caiman is building that feeds into a "fractionation" facility currently under construction along the Ohio River, just north of the Marshall-Wetzel county line.
The pipleline and the fractionation facility are scheduled for completion in June 2012. In essence, the fractionation facility will process the natural gas liquids into their final form.
"The fractionation facility will take a blended liquid hydrocarbon product (called "Y Grade") and separate the Y Grade into purity propane, butane and natural gasoline," Lafield said. "The initial facility will handle 12,500 barrels per day of Y Grade feedstock."
The fractionation plant also will be a welcome addition to the area's industrial base, which took a hit last week with the announced closing of First Energy's R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside. Along with a dozen workers at the plant, there will be rail and truck loading areas to allow for easy transportation of the processed products.