NATRIUM - Though the site buzzes daily with construction activity, the $500 million Dominion Resources natural gas processing plant is already three months behind schedule for opening.
The plant is now part of a $1.5 billion processing and transportation venture between Dominion and Caiman Energy known as Blue Racer Midstream. This network includes facilities across northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio that will move gas and liquids out of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
In the natural gas and oil industry, the term "midstream" broadly refers to pipelines that gather and transport gas and oil, processing plants, fractionators and compressor stations. With continued development, the system could eventually transport "at least 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day," according to Blue Racer.
Photo by Casey Junkins
As part of the $1.5 billion Blue Racer Midstream partnership between Dominion Resources and Caiman Energy, Dominion is still building the Natrium plant in Marshall County.
"I don't have a firm start up date yet - it will be later this spring," said Blue Racer spokeswoman Casey Nikoloric regarding the Natrium plant.
Once the wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas travels to the Dominion plant via the company's pipeline network, the ethane, butane, propane and other natural gas liquids will be separated from the "dry" methane gas so that all the products can be individually marketed.
Upon separation from the gas stream, the propane and butane will be kept in tanks on the Dominion site to be marketed. However, this cannot be done with ethane because of the product's volatility, so Dominion is looking to ship the ethane for cracking along the Gulf Coast.
Officials with both Dominion and Caiman believe the plant's location along the Ohio River in Marshall County will allow it to be a centerpiece in the burgeoning Utica and Marcellus shale industries in Ohio and West Virginia.
"The Utica Shale has enormous potential to provide jobs and revenues for the local Ohio economy," said Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Because the portion of the Utica Shale targeted today produces a rich gas stream, gathering and processing capacity must be developed so that the natural gas and valuable natural gas liquids can be separated and sold."
Throughout the plant's construction along the Ohio River and W.Va. 2 in Marshall County, members of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation have been at odds with Dominion - as well as the company building the plant on Dominion's behalf, Chicago Bridge & Iron - for not hiring more local workers to build the facility. Total on-site worker numbers have fluctuated from about 84 to nearly 1,000 over the past year.
Construction workers this week could be seen working on a small portion of the plant that is located on the eastern side of W.Va. 2. The vast majority of the facility is located between W.Va. 2 and the Ohio River.
Workers have also installed railroad lines that will connect the Natrium plant to the CSX Corp. line, which is part of the historic Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Dominion spokesman Charles Penn said the company will use rail service to move its product.
The Natrium facility should employ 40-45 full-time, permanent workers for jobs at the plant itself upon completion. Penn said these jobs will pay from $20-$30 per hour.
As part of the $1.5 billion deal, Blue Racer is building a 90,000-gallon natural gas liquids storage facility along Ohio 331, south of the village of Flushing, that will be connected by pipeline to the Natrium facility. Nikoloric said this facility will be used to "handle liquids that condense in the pipeline."