Marcellus gas set to heat parts of Eastern Seaboard

MOUNDSVILLE – About 1 million residents along the Eastern Seaboard will heat their homes with Marcellus shale natural gas drawn from northern West Virginia this winter, thanks to the Williams Energy Transco pipeline.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams maintains a Moundsville field office as the company continues building $4.5 billion worth of infrastructure throughout Marshall County to process and transport methane, propane, butane, ethane and pentanes drawn from Upper Ohio Valley drilling operations.

Monday, Williams officials announced they had completed an expansion to the 10,200-mile Transco pipeline system that is “specifically to connect Marcellus natural gas supply with Northeastern markets.” The expansion should allow Williams to provide enough gas to service about 1 million homes in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.

“We remain committed to safe operations as we continue our steadfast execution on a portfolio of primarily fee-based projects, including further expansions of our well-positioned Transco natural gas pipeline to serve the growing markets for low cost natural gas all along the Eastern Seaboard and the southeast United States,” said Alan Armstrong, chief executive officer of Williams.

The expansion project saw Williams build about 13 miles of pipe in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, in addition to modifying an existing compressor station and constructing a new 25,000 horsepower compressor station in Essex County, N.J. Half of the project’s capacity was placed into service in August after Williams received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an early in-service date.

Transco’s entire system can transport enough natural gas to serve the equivalent of more than 42 million homes.

In Marshall County, Williams has three sites of operation: the Fort Beeler cryogenic processing plant, the under construction Oak Grove processing plant and the Moundsville fractionation plant. 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. Once finished, officials believe the system 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 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 these operations with an additional $2.2 billion expenditure.

Companies such as Williams – along with Blue Racer Midstream, MarkWest Energy or M3 Midstream – are known in the industry as processors, or “midstreamers.” This is because the processing company accepts the wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas that drillers such as Gastar Exploration, Chesapeake Energy or Chevron draw out of the ground. This gas contains the aforementioned natural gas liquids, in addition to the dry methane.

Williams now processes gas for several producers, including Chesapeake, Gastar, Chevron, Stone Energy, Noble Energy and Trans Energy.