Jim Ross | The State Journal | September 4, 2017
The Sherwood natural gas processing and fractionation complex in Doddridge County is the largest on the MPLX system, and it's getting larger. (Courtesy MPLX)
It takes only a few numbers for Doddridge County Assessor David Sponaugle to see what the natural gas industry has done for the tax base there.
In 2010, the total assessed valuation for Doddridge County – land, buildings, minerals, vehicles and all else – was $457,530,911, Sponaugle said. In 2017, it’s $1,386,157,147. That’s more than three times what it was seven years ago.
“Is all that increase from natural gas?
No,” Sponaugle said. “There’s been some construction, but the majority of the increase in our assessed valuation has been from our oil and gas industry.”
Doddridge County is a place where drillers have come to pull gas and gas liquids out of the ground, and it’s also a place where companies have built plants to get gas and liquids ready to put in pipelines.
That is something common in the Appalachian gas fields, particularly the shale fields, according to a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The natural gas processing capacity in what the U.S. Energy Information Administration calls the Appalachian gas region —West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky — has grown from about 1.1 billion cubic feet per day in 2010 to 10 billion, according to the EIA.
In northern West Virginia, that can be seen in the development of the MarkWest Sherwood complex in Doddridge County, the MarkWest Mobley complex in Wetzel County, MarkWest’s Majorsville facility in Marshall County and Blue Racer Midstream complex in Marshall County.
The Markwest Mobley is one of several such operations in West Virginia that prepare natural gas for shipment through pipelines and separates out valuable gas liquids. (Courtesy MPLX)
According to information supplied by MPLX, which acquired MarkWest in late 2015, the Sherwood complex is the largest processing facility on the MPLX system.
Natural gas processors separate dry natural gas from natural gas liquids and remove contaminants such as water and sulfur. The natural gas liquids are either shipped with the dry gas or they are sold separately, often depending on market demand and conditions.
Fractionation occurs when processing plants continue the process so they can separate individual gas liquids.
“In the Appalachian region, unlike in other producing regions, all liquids extracted are fractionated locally,” the EIA report said. “As a result, the natural gas processing capacity buildout in the Appalachian region has been accompanied by significant additions to regional fractionation capacity.”
The EIA estimates that fractionation capacity in the region has increased from 41,000 barrels per day in 2010 to nearly 850,000 barrels per day in 2016, and it could reach 1.1 million in 2019.
MarkWest’s three facilities in West Virginia have seen expansions in recent years, and that expansion is continuing into next year.
At the Sherwood complex, MarkWest has added two gas processing plants with capacities of 200 million cubic feet per day each, for a total of eight plants at the complex. That will increase Sherwood’s capacity is 1.6 billion cfd, MPLX spokesman Jamal T. Kheiry said.
The complex also includes a 40,000 barrel per day de-ethanization unit. Three more gas processing plants with capacities of 200 million cfd each, and a 20,000 bpd ethane fractionation plant, are currently under construction there, expected to be complete next year. There is also the potential to develop up to six additional processing facilities at Sherwood and at a future expansion site, Kheiry said.
Majorsville can process 1.07 billion cfd, and the complex includes a 40,000 bpd de-ethanization unit. MPLX is adding a 40,000-bpd ethane fractionation plant that should be complete in the fourth quarter of this year, Kheiry said. Majorsville will also be the site of a new 200 million cfd gas processing plant scheduled for completion next year, he said.
Mobley’s capacity is 920 million cfd, and includes a 10,000 bpd de-ethanization unit, Kheiry said.