Marcellus Shale is the largest producing oil field in the United States. Natural gas producers said West Virginia is in the sweet spot of that field.
Marcellus Shale production started in 2008 and is rapidly growing in the Mountain State.
Natural gas is primarily used for heating. But natural gas production and processing creates more than just heating products.
Antero Resources is one of the leading producers of natural gas in West Virginia and is considered to be an upstream company because it is responsible for getting the natural gas out of the ground. MarkWest Energy Partners is also well known in the natural gas industry and is considered a midstream company because it gathers natural gas from natural gas producers and then processes it.
Processing is an important step in the natural gas industry.
"In order for that natural gas to be delivered in to your home or commercial applications it has to have a certain heating content called BTU's British Thermal Units. In order to meet that quality specification the natural gas liquids have to be extracted. If you left the natural gas liquids in the gas the BTU would be too high, it would be too flammable, " said Frank Semple Chairman, President and CEO of Mark West.
MarkWest and Antero recently announced a joint effort to get more natural gas to market. MarkWest showcased its Sherwood I Natural Gas Processing Plant in West Union on Thursday morning. The plant will process natural gas produced by Antero.
"These plants actually process the gas that has a lot of natural gas liquids," Semple said.
"Super chill it while they drop the pressure and the liquids fall out within the gas. Those liquids are what are called natural gas liquids," said Paul Rady, Chairman and CEO of Antero Resources.
Those natural gas liquids include products like Ethane, Propane and Butane. Propane and Butane can be found in stores across the country and are even used in products like plastics. Once those products are removed from the raw material, the material is then known as natural gas.
Once those materials are taken out of the raw natural gas, they are transported to Washington County, Pennsylvania for further breakdown. Currently, those materials are transported by trucking companies. But Frank Semple said those materials will soon make their way to Pennsylvania via pipeline.
Two other plants are expected to be completed in the next year at that same location. Semple said just one of those plants produces quite a bit of natural gas.
"One of these plants can provide natural gas for heating purposes for tens of thousands of homes," Semple said.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was also at the plant Thursday.
He said plants like this will not only help further gas development in West Virginia but also boost the local economy and provide more jobs.
"This is the first phase with the opening of this processing plant," Tomblin said. "There have been hundreds of workers in the construction. There will be at least 20 full time jobs here. It brings a great economic boost to the state, and this one in particular to Doddridge County."
Tomblin is also working to make natural gas fuel stations more available in West Virginia.
To read more about this plant, click here.