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$375M gas-processing plant energizes Valley’s shale play



Published: Wed, October 30, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

The dedication Monday of a $375 million natural-gas processing plant in New Middletown should silence any remaining doubting Thomases who question the colossal potential of the emerging shale industry to fortify the Mahoning Valley’s economy.

We join Ohio Gov. John Kasich and state and local development and government officials in welcoming Pennant Midstream’s Hickory Bend processing plant on State Line Road. It serves as a landmark addition to the Valley’s growing share of Utica shale development in the region. The Hickory Bend plant represents the largest project in the Valley’s industrial resurgence since the $1 billion-plus investment made by France-based Vallourec in the expansion and retooling of its Youngstown pipe-making plant to serve the shale drilling industry. The Valley heralded completion and dedication of that project earlier this year.

The massive new gas-processing plant in rural Mahoning County will be a major and impressive cog in the industry’s midstream footprint in our region. Midstream describes one of the three major stages of oil and gas industry operations that includes the processing, storing, transporting and marketing of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids.

MASSIVE SIZE, SCOPE OF PROJECT

The project entails 55 miles of wet-gas pipelines that will stretch north into Pennsylvania and through parts of eastern Ohio, with the capacity to collect 600 million cubic feet of wet and dry gas and deliver 90,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day to a plant in Kensington in Columbiana County.

Robert C. Skaggs, president and CEO of NiSource Midstream Services, minced no words in describing the significance of the project, a joint venture between NiSource and Harvest Pipeline, an affiliate of Hillcorp Energy Co., one of the largest privately-held oil and natural gas exploration and production companies in the United States

“This will be the fountainhead of energy in Ohio,” he said of the shale industry in our region and the New Middletown plant’s role in that growth.

It also will be a fountainhead of jobs, capital investment and responsible development of the Utica shale, the Utica, N.Y.-centered region of the northeast United States and Quebec, Canada, that is a rich minefield of underground shale gas.

Construction of the massive complex has created about 500 good-paying jobs. And although the plant itself will initially employ only about 24, company officials are pledging growth there and possible expansion via two additional plants on the site for a total investment in Springfield Township of about $1 billion.

The facility also will shine as a beacon for the Valley’s vast Utica shale potential and could work to beckon other similar companies to make other similarly massive investments here.

PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT

For those rightly concerned about the new cryogenic plant’s impact on the local environment, NiSource officials vow cooperation, responsibility and attention to detail. Chad Zamarin, president of Pennant Midstream, assured those attending the Monday dedication — including a small group of protesters on the fringe of its property — that the facility will use the most advanced safety systems and the cleanest technology possible to protect the community’s priceless natural and human resources.

We trust leaders of the joint venture who have a reputation for responsible practices and a track record of growth. Clearly the new Hickory Bend plant represents the start of something big for the Mahoning Valley. Let its success and its expansion work to firmly establish our region as a major nationwide hub of the increasingly lucrative shale-energy industry.


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