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Williams Has Big Plans For West Virginia's Northern Panhandle

September 3, 2012
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Williams plans to invest $1.34 billion and create 100 jobs between now and 2014 in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle to take advantage of unconventional natural gas growth, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Thursday.

With its majority ownership in natural gas pipeline operator Williams Partners LP (WPZ), Tulsa-based Williams has a big stable of North American onshore and offshore assets, underpinned by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line, or Transco. It also has a slew of greenfield pipe projects and expansions on the table to take advantage of Marcellus Shale and emerging Utica Shale opportunities (see NGI, Aug. 6; July 30; June 4).

Between now and 2014 Williams plans to spend $9.8-11.3 billion in North American growth projects, mostly in the Marcellus Shale, where demand for takeaway capacity from producers continues to grow, CEO Alan Armstrong said in April (see NGI, April 30).

The latest investments and jobs created by Williams would be centered in Marshall County, WV, said Tomblin.

"I think it's a very exciting day," said Tomblin, a Democrat. "These are the kind of jobs that are generational jobs, which means that a young person can come and work at Williams and spend their entire career here with one company." He called Williams' commitment to Marshall County "and the entire Northern Panhandle...an example of the growing opportunities Marcellus Shale development is bringing to West Virginia.

"The investment and jobs will have lasting effects on the region as the workers needed will be operating and maintaining Williams' facilities and pipelines for many years to come."

Earlier this year WPZ paid $2.5 billion to buy Caiman Energy's midstream business, which expanded its footprint in the natural gas liquids portion of the Marcellus in West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio (see NGI, March 26). The deal included the Moundsville fractionator and the Fort Beeler gas processing plant, as well as natural gas gathering lines and natural gas liquids pipelines. Construction of a new gas processing plant five miles west of the Fort Beeler plant began earlier this year. An ethane pipeline also is planned.

Assets acquired by Caiman were tethered by long-term contracted commitments, including 236,000 dedicated gathering acres from 10 producers. WPZ in July expanded its venture with Caiman and partners EnCap Flatrock Midstream and Highstar Capital by investing in midstream infrastructure development in Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania (see NGI, July 16).

Since acquiring the Caiman assets -- and staff -- Williams and the partnership have hired 74 full-time people in the Ohio Valley of West Virginia area, Tomblin said. "As Marshall County has grown with the coal industry, we can now grow with another extraction industry," said RED Executive Director Don Rigby.

Including the latest growth plans announced by Tomblin, Williams plans to spend close to $4 billion for infrastructure in northern West Virginia.

Williams' Frank Billings, vice president of the Onshore Gathering and Processing Eastern Region, said the company is committed to creating more permanent jobs across the region. "The jobs that Williams creates here are generational jobs," Billings said. "Generations of West Virginians are going to be able to work these jobs."

Williams plans to house some of its new staff in a building that now is leased by Teletech, a call center in Moundsville, which employs 250. Teletech had been struggling to pay rent in the building, which is owned by the Wheeling, WV-based Regional Economic Development Partnership (REDP), said Marshall County Commission President Jake Padlow.

Williams would split the building's utility and rent costs with Teletech, and a $1.4 million renovation to the building also would be done to accommodate Williams staff. Teletech also plans to expand and hire 100 more people once the renovations are completed.

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