WHEELING - Powered by extensive Marcellus and Utica shale processing and pipelining infrastructure, the Wheeling Metropolitan Statistical Area saw construction investments grow from $60.3 million in 2012 to $1.72 billion in 2013.
"I see another 5-10 years of construction like this," said Keith Hughes, business manager at Ironworkers Local No. 549 in Wheeling. "It has been tremendous for our area and we appreciate all of the work we are getting."
Williams Energy will eventually invest a total of $4.5 billion for Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas processing infrastructure in Marshall County, while Blue Racer Midstream and MarkWest Energy continue working on similar ambitious projects throughout the Upper Ohio Valley. Simultaneously, new hotels are opening at The Highlands, in St. Clairsville and in Morristown to accommodate those individuals now working in the shale regions.
Photo by Casey Junkins
The drilling boom has prompted related building in the region. A 76-room Days Inn & Suites is under construction along Ohio 149 across from Union Local High School in Morristown.
It all adds up to show that construction in the Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties - collectively known as the Wheeling Metropolitan Statistical Area - grew to $1.72 billion in 2013. According to McGraw Hill Construction, the same area saw only $60.3 million worth of construction in 2012.
New York City-based McGraw Hill tracks and analyzes construction trends throughout the nation. The company's data shows that 2013 saw $1.7 billion worth of "non-residential" construction in the MSA, up from $54.3 million in 2012. Non-residential building includes offices, hotels, retail outlets, warehouses, manufacturing, education, hospitals and government buildings and infrastructure.
The remaining amounts for both years are for "residential" building - $10.8 million in 2013 and $6 million in 2012.
The numbers could be even more impressive next year, as construction does not seem to be slowing. In Marshall County, Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams has three sites of operation: the Fort Beeler processing plant; the Oak Grove processing plant; and the Moundsville fractionation plant. While each of these sites are in some level of operation, the company continues building at each site, with most of these efforts now focused on the Oak Grove facility.
Once all projects are up and running, they will work as a cohesive unit to separate the liquid portions of the natural gas stream from the dry portions. Williams officials believe they will be able to process at least 2.5 billion cubic feet on natural gas per day.
In April 2012, Williams paid about $2.3 billion to acquire the Fort Beeler cryogenic processing plant - which can be seen along U.S. 250 between Moundsville and Cameron - and the other Marshall County operations of Caiman Energy. Williams is now in the midst of expanding with an additional $2.2 billion expenditure.
Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said her company performed $1.64 billion worth of new construction in 2013, with plans to build $1.3 billion more this year. Hughes said the union appreciates Williams.
"We have 40 ironworkers out at Oak Grove right now," Hughes said. "We are also doing work for MarkWest and Blue Racer. It is really a boon for us and for the whole area."
MarkWest has invested $2.2 billion into pipelines, processing and fractionation plants in the region. MarkWest expanded its Majorsville facility in eastern Marshall County in 2013, via supply agreements with Consol Energy and Noble Energy. MarkWest also started a second de-ethanizer at the Majorsville site. Blue Racer continued building onto the Marshall County Natrium plant and its pipeline network in 2013 until a Sept. 21 fire.