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MarkWest Facility Hit By Lightning in SW Pennsylvania

MarkWest Energy Partners LP on Thursday said its Houston Processing and Fractionation facility in southwest Pennsylvania would remain offline until a full assessment of equipment could be made after a lightning strike on Wednesday caused limited damage to one of its processing plants there.

Public safety officials said severe thunderstorms that rolled through much of the region Wednesday led to a lightning strike and small fire at the facility, prompting a three hour evacuation of nearby homes and forcing the company to take the plant offline at about 6 p.m. EDT. No injuries were reported and all workers at the site were accounted for. 

The Houston plant, located in Chartiers Township in Washington County, which is about 27 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, mostly serves Range Resources Corp., a leading Marcellus Shale producer.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the facility serves other producers, but he added that the majority of its natural gas comes from Range.

In a press release, Range said preliminary reports from MarkWest indicate that its second quarter production will not be significantly impacted, adding that its guidance for the quarter will remain unchanged.

MarkWest said it was working to reroute some production through a rich-gas header system to its Majorsville complex in Marshall County, WV, about 30 miles southwest of the Houston facility on the state line.

According to local news media reports, witnesses reported seeing a plume of smoke rise from the facility immediately after the lightning strike. MarkWest, though, said an initial assessment of the damage showed no evidence of a fire and just one of three processing plants at the site was affected.

The Washington County Department of Public Safety estimated that about 50 homes, or 100 people, were evacuated.

MarkWest is the Marcellus Shale's leading natural gas processor, with 2.2 Bcf/d of processing capacity and 172,000 b/d of fractionation. The Houston complex has a processing capacity of 355 MMcf/d and 60,000 b/d of fractionation. The facility can also de-ethanize 38,000 b/d.

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