More processing, fractionation planned for Marcellus, Utica shales

By OGJ editors

MarkWest Energy Partners LP, Denver, will add more than 600 MMcfd of processing capacity for the Marcellus and Utica shales, as well as 140,000 b/d of fractionation, the company reported.

Once complete, it will operate about 2.3 bcfd of processing and nearly 300,000 b/d of fractionation for Northeast US shale plays, it said, including the Huron, Marcellus, and Utica.

Plant expansion

For Marcellus producers, additional processing will include a 400-MMcfd expansion of MarkWest’s Majorsville, Pa., processing plant, bringing total cryogenic processing there to 670 MMcfd. The expansion includes two, 200-MMcfd trains expected to come online in 2013 and supported by long-term agreements with Consol Energy, Noble Energy, and Range Resources.

NGLs recovered at Majorsville and all other MarkWest processing in the Marcellus move via NGL gathering to the company’s Houston, Pa., fractionation, storage, and marketing complex.

Since 2008, MarkWest’s announcement said, it has invested in developing midstream infrastructure for the liquids-rich areas of the Marcellus. When the Majorsville and other recently announced expansions come online, said the company, it will operate more than 1.5 bcfd of processing capacity in the rich-gas part of the Marcellus.

The company is also expanding its Marcellus NGL infrastructure with new de-ethanization at the Houston and Majorsville complexes and installation of a large purity-ethane pipeline between the Majorsville and Houston plants.

In 2011, MarkWest announced plans to build two de-ethanization plants with capacity to produce up to 75,000 b/d of purity ethane by mid-2013. To accommodate increasing liquids-rich production, MarkWest will build a third de-ethanization plant that will increase production capacity of purity ethane to 115,000 b/d by 2014. This will bring its total NGL fractionation capacity in the Marcellus to 175,000 b/d when the incremental de-ethanization capacity announced today comes online.

The first phase of ethane production capacity of 75,000 b/d and the purity-ethane pipeline are to come online in mid-2013 with completion of Mariner West, a pipeline project jointly developed by MarkWest and Sunoco Logistics LP to deliver Marcellus ethane to petrochemical markets in Sarnia, Ont. (OGJ Online, Sept. 12, 2011).

MarkWest’s de-ethanization processing and ethane pipeline will also serve other ethane transportation projects, said the company, including Mariner East and Enterprise Product Partners’ ATEX Express ethane pipeline (OGJ Online, Jan. 4, 2011), to transport Marcellus ethane to US Gulf Coast and international markets.

JV formed

In December 2011, MarkWest joined with the Energy & Minerals Group to form MarkWest Utica EMG LLC and develop natural gas processing and NGL fractionation, transportation, and marketing in the Utica in eastern Ohio. MarkWest Utica and MarkWest Liberty today announced the first phase of their Utica development plan, including two new processing plants in Harrison and Monroe counties and 100,000 b/d of fractionation, storage, and marketing in Harrison County.

The processing and fractionation will provide rich-gas processing and NGL fractionation, storage, and marketing for several eastern Ohio counties that comprise most of the liquids-rich Utica. The Harrison plant will include 200 MMcfd of cryogenic processing and is to begin operations in mid-2013.

MarkWest says is finalizing the design capacity of the Monroe County complex, which also is to begin operations in 2013. Both processing complexes will be connected via NGL gathering to the Harrison County fractionation plant that will begin operating next year.

Creating a large network of processing complexes connected through an extensive NGL gathering system, said the company, “has been critical to the full development of the Marcellus, and the announced Ohio facilities represent the first major step in providing Utica producers with the same benefits.”

Additionally, the Harrison fractionation facilities, which will be able to market NGLs by truck, rail, and pipeline, will be connected to MarkWest’s “extensive processing and NGL pipeline network in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and will provide for the integrated operation of the two largest fractionation complexes” in the Northeastern US.

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