Second superload on way, MarkWest grows

WHEELING – Residents should expect another superload de-ethanizer to make its way to the Williams Energy Oak Grove facility along Fork Ridge Road this month as the company continues building $4.5 billion worth of natural gas processing infrastructure in the county.

Meanwhile, fellow natural gas processor MarkWest Energy continues investing billions in both Ohio and West Virginia in the effort to transport Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas out of the Upper Ohio Valley.

Company-wide, 2013 was a challenging year for Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams, according to Alan Armstrong, president and CEO.

During the year, the company recorded net income of $430 million, down from $859 million in 2012.

Part of this loss is due to the firm losing six months worth of production as a result of an explosion at the Williams plant in Geismar, La. He also cited declining margins in sales for natural gas liquids, such as ethane, propane, butane and pentane.

“In the face of the past year’s challenges presented by the continued decline in NGL margins and the significant and tragic Geismar incident, we continued to focus on significantly growing our fee-based revenues.

“We also continued to win significant new business that will support strong dividend growth for years to come,” Armstrong said.

“We continue to engage in ongoing discussions with potential customers regarding commitments to this large-scale, integrated solution that connects Marcellus-Utica natural gas liquids to diverse domestic markets, fractionation, storage and export facilities in the Gulf Coast,” he said.

In February, Williams’ 41-yard-long, 510,000-pound superload de-ethanizer caused quite a stir as it moved from the Benwood CSX rail yard to the Oak Grove facility during a three-day journey.

Company spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said a second de-ethanizer will make a similar trek across Marshall County this month. The device strips ethane out of the natural gas stream before pipelines transport the product to Williams’ customers for further processing.

As Williams continues expanding, MarkWest has also started a second de-ethanizer at the Majorsville complex in eastern Marshall County.

MarkWest is operating its Liberty Ethane Pipeline carrying ethane from Majorsville to Houston, Pa. The product will then head to the Gulf Coast by the ATEX pipeline or to Sarnia, Canada, by the Mariner West pipeline.

In January, MarkWest started the Hopedale fractionation and marketing complex in Harrison County.