Pennant Midstream LLC said Monday that its $375 million Hickory Bend Processing Plant and wet-gas gathering system is fully operational, with company officials expecting the plant to begin accepting natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) by the end of the first quarter.

Located in Mahoning County in Northeast Ohio, the plant is jointly owned by Hilcorp Energy Co. affiliate Harvest Pipeline Co. and NiSource Midstream Services LLC. First announced in December 2012, the plant is about a 20 minute drive from Youngstown, OH, and the only one of its kind located so far north in the Utica Shale (see Shale Daily, July 10, 2012).

With a processing capability of 200 MMcf/d, the plant is expected to initially support wet-gas production from Hilcorp, which has operations nearby and across the border in Northwest Pennsylvania. Sarah Barczyk, a spokeswoman for NiSource Midstream, toldNGI's Shale Daily that Hilcorp is currently the only company scheduled to send gas to the plant, but she added that Pennant is in discussions with other operators, including BP America and Halcon Resources Corp., which both have wells in Trumbull County, OH, to the north of the plant.

"As producers bring wells online and are able to flow gas to the facility, Hickory Bend will be capable of processing up to 200 MMcf/d," said Pennant President Chad Zamarin. "This achievement contributes to increased shale production in the Appalachian Basin and is not only critical to unlocking the potential of the Utica Shale play in Ohio, it is furthering economic development in the Mahoning Valley."

The facility's 600 MMcf/d gathering system consists of 55 miles of 20- and 24-inch pipelines running north into Pennsylvania and through parts of eastern Ohio. The company is readying the Hickory site for two other plants it plans to build in the next three to five years, which could bring its processing capacity to 1 Bcf/d at an overall investment of $1 billion.

After the NGLs are separated at the plant, dry gas will be put into sales throughout the region. The remaining liquids will head south through a 38-mile pipeline to link up with existing infrastructure at Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC's (UEO) processing and fractionation facilities in Columbiana and Harrison counties (see Shale Daily, July 2, 2013). UEO is a joint venture among M3 Ohio Gathering LLC, EV Energy Partners LP and Access Midstream Partners LP.