NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage (NGT&S) and MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources Inc. have joined a growing list of joint venture partnerships onshore to develop new natural gas gathering, processing and transmission projects to support more production volumes in the northern West Virginia area of the Marcellus Shale.

NGT&S, a unit of NiSource Inc., includes the companies Columbia Gas Transmission, Columbia Gulf Transmission, Hardy Storage, Millennium Pipeline and Crossroads Pipeline. MarkWest Liberty Midstream is a partnership between MarkWest Energy Partners LP and The Energy & Minerals Group.

"With the significant increase in drilling activity and recent uplift in deliverability in the Marcellus Shale, there is an immediate need for capacity to allow producers to move their gas out of the basin and further develop the area," said NGT&S Group CEO Christopher A. Helms. "Providing new solutions for delivering supplies to high value markets is an important growth area for NGT&S, and this joint project with MarkWest Liberty is a great opportunity for all concerned."

The partners "are in discussions with a number of natural gas producers and intrastate pipelines" to add liquids-rich gas services in association with NGT&S near its Smithfield, WVA, compressor station. The pipeline services would serve producers in Marshall, Wetzel and Doddridge counties, WVA. Nonaffiliated gathering systems in Marion, Harrison, Tyler and Pleasants counties, WVA, also would move the Appalachian Basin volumes.

According to the partners, the affiliated and nonaffiliated pipeline systems would deliver gas into Smithfield, where MarkWest Liberty would install a 120 MMcf/d cryogenic processing facility as early as mid-2011. Capacity could be increased to around 240 MMcf/d by mid-2012.

MarkWest Liberty would complement the processing facilities with fractionation services at its Houston, PA, natural gas liquids fractionation, storage and marketing complex. The gathering capacity would have access to the regulated transmission and storage services of NGT&S.

A portion of the transmission capacity could be available for service as early as November, with the remaining capacity available by April 2011, the partners said. More gathering and processing capabilities in the region could be installed as producers expand their drilling activities in the area.

Initial primary delivery points from the proposed processing facility at Smithfield would be to the NGT&S Columbia Gas Interruptible Paper Pool or to the Segmentation Pool at Leach, KY (MA19).

For information about the proposed plans, contact Brian Blount, NGT&S supply and origination business manager, at (304) 357-2626 or bblount@nisource.com.

MarkWest recently said it would expand its processing and fractionation capacity in the Marcellus Shale in support of agreements with several producers (see NGI, April 19).

Also last week two pipeline projects to carry Marcellus gas to markets in Canada and the Northeast were said to have garnered "significant" shipper support, according to National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. and Empire Pipeline Inc. (see related story).

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