Units of NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage (NGT&S) and MarkWest Energy Partners LP have launched operations at a natural gas processing complex in Majorsville, WV, to serve Marcellus Shale production in the northern part of the state.

NiSource Midstream Services (NMS) and MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC, which is a partnership between MarkWest Energy Partners and The Energy & Minerals Group, said the Majorsville complex augments the midstream infrastructure that the partners independently operate in southwest Pennsylvania. MarkWest Liberty announced the Majorsville expansion in April (see Daily GPI, April 19).

"With the commencement of the Majorsville processing complex, producers in the Marcellus Shale region will now have access to the additional capacity they have long needed to move their gas to downstream markets," said NGT&S CEO Christopher A. Helms. "A significant initiative for NGT&S is to offer new solutions to customers for transportation of supplies to valuable markets, and our joint project with MarkWest Liberty is a great example of this."

The Majorsville gathering and processing facilities are fully contracted, said the partners, and serve affiliates of, among others, Chesapeake Energy Corp., Chief Oil & Gas LLC, CONSOL Energy Inc./CNX Gas Corp., Range Resources Corp. and Statoil ASA.

In early August NMS completed a "refunctionalization" of pipeline and compression assets in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which included recommissioning the Majorsville compressor station. The pipeline and compression assets allow NMS to gather and deliver up to 88,000 Dth/d of Marcellus gas production from Pennsylvania's Washington and Greene counties, and up to 250,000 Dth/d from West Virginia's Marshall, Wetzel and Doddridge counties to the Majorsville processing plant.

Residue gas from the processing plant currently is delivered into the NGT&S interstate pipeline system. In October construction is to begin on a pipeline to deliver residue gas to the Texas Eastern Windridge Compressor Station to provide additional outlet capacity to Northeast markets. A January in-service date is planned.

Earlier this month MarkWest Liberty began operations of its 120 MMcf/d cryogenic gas processing plant at the Majorsville complex, and it launched a 35-mile natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline to connect the Majorsville complex to MarkWest Liberty's midstream complex in Houston, PA. In the coming year MarkWest Liberty said it plans to expand cryogenic processing capacity at the Majorsville complex to 270 MMcf/d. At the same time, processing capacity at the Houston, PA, facility is to be more than doubled to 355 MMcf/d from 155 MMcf/d.

To accommodate the increase in NGL production MarkWest Liberty is building 60,000 b/d of fractionation capacity to allow for commercial production of not only purity propane, but also iso-butane, normal butane and natural gasoline. When combined with an existing 24,000 b/d fractionation, storage and marketing facility near Portsmouth, OH, MarkWest said its combined NGL infrastructure in the Appalachian Basin would total nearly 85,000 b/d of fractionation, storage and marketing capacity.

As the Marcellus Shale's gas volumes have ramped up across the region, a "serious problem" has emerged for rich gas production, Bentek Energy said in a report earlier this month (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13). Without a viable offtake for ethane, producers could be forced to curtail gas production, the Evergreen, CO-based consultant said.

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