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There’s gold in them there hills!

By Carol McIntire

Turning on the valves
UEO Buckeye and state officials joined together in a “turning of the valves” ceremony Monday afternoon at the Harrison Hub in Scio. From left are Mike Stice of Access Midstream, Frank Tsuru of M3 Midstream, Ohio Governor John Kasich and David Mustine of JobsOhio.
In the inset photo, Frank Tsuru, M3 Midstream president, speaks about the private-government cooperation that made the project a reality.

To say Ohio Governor John Kasich was excited about what he saw while visiting Scio Monday afternoon would be an understatement.

In town for a ceremonial “turning of the valves” at the Harrison Hub, the first integrated natural gas processing facility in Ohio, Kasich proclaimed, “there’s gold in them there hills!”

Pointing to the rolling hills located just behind the facility as he was speaking, the Governor was referring to the liquids-rich natural gas being extracted from the ground in eastern Ohio that is being transported through a series of pipelines to a cryogenic processing facility located near Kensington in Columbiana County and then to the fractionation facility known as the Harrison Hub.

At the Kensington facility, the gas is subject to temperatures as low as -150 degrees Fahrenheit during the process to remove Natural Gas Liquids (NGL). The dry gas is then sold on the open market. The NGL travel through a 24-inch pipeline under between 800 and 900 pounds of pressure to the Harrison Hub, where they are separated out and sold; shipped via pipeline, rail and truck.

“We have it all here,” Kasich told the crowd of about 100 people. “We have the wet gas, the dry gas and the condensate. These components will be valuable well into the future.”

He thanked the partners involved in Utica East Ohio Buckeye (UEO): M3 Midstream, LLC, Access Midstream and Enervest, for making the facility a reality and for their cooperation with state and local officials.
“Thanks to Frank (Tsuru, M3 Midstream president) and Mike  (Stice, chief executive officer of Access Midstream) for putting a lot of money into this,” he said. “And thanks for making the hiring of Ohioans a priority.”

He noted on the way into the area where the ceremony was held, he visited a Scio man who was working in the control room. “These are good jobs that pay well and are cutting edge,” he noted.

Tsuru said the Kensington and Scio plants employ a staff of 50, along with 13 individuals assigned to rail operations in Scio. By the end of 2014, the UEO system plans to employ 115 people at the plants and 30 rail personnel.

“Five of our employees here are from right here in Scio,” Tsuru added. “We are hiring locally for the long-term jobs.”

He noted several area and state contractors are working on the project, including Minerva Welding and Fabricating and an excavating company from Jewett.

The celebration marked the opening of Phase I of the fractionation facility. Phase 2 is scheduled to be open in late spring or early summer of 2014 and Phase 3 during the first past of 2015. Additional phases can be added if an adequate number of cryogenic facilities are built and create a demand for it.

Mike Hay, site safety coordinator at the facility who lives in Carrollton, said the plant is processing 10,000 barrels of NGL per day with a maximum capacity of 45,000 barrels per day when at full operation The Kensington facility can produce 200,000 million cubic feet of gas per day.

At full operation, the plant can produce enough product to fill 40-60 trucks per day and 200 rail cars. The partners built 10 sets of train tracks at the hub, which is located near a series of bullet tanks that can each hold 90,000 gallons of product.

Tsuru, Stice and Kasich all touted the cooperation of private companies, state government and local government with making the facility a reality in such a short period of time.

“Eleven months ago, this was nothing more than hilly ground,” Tsuru said. Stice noted that 11 months ago, there also were no compressor stations to push the gas through the lines and no cryogenic processing facilities or pipelines to tie the facilities together.

All said there were there to celebrate the spirit of partnership and to tout the partners’ commitment to safety. The commitment to local safety and emergency response units throughout the system continues through long-term funding of enhanced emergency medical service providers as well as sponsoring mutual training programs for local volunteer fire departments. UEO provided 40-hour training programs at the Ohio State Fire Academy for firefighters from Carroll County, Carrollton, Hanoverton and Scio in 2013 and plans to continue and extend training every year to other local fire departments in the region.

Kasich encouraged vocational schools and institutions of higher learning to “make a connection” with what it happening in the Utica shale region and to make sure young people are “as excited as we are about this.”
Kasich said “the guys” are telling him they are “very happy” with what they found in the ground and estimate the supply of natural gas and oil will last for decades, even longer as technology evolves and new ways are found to extract the minerals.

He asked for help from local communities in finding what he called “sweet spots” for spin-off businesses such as petrochemical, chemical and polymer industries to locate that could be around for the next 100 years and encouraged people to “think outside the box” in making it possible.

“I believe as this builds out, we will see all of our communities become better,” he concluded.

Kasich, Tsuru, Stice and David Mustine, JobsOhio managing director for energy, polymers and chemicals, then officially turned the valves to end the ceremony.

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