Crews have begun raising steel poles for a new FirstEnergy Corp. transmission line designed to serve the needs of unconventional shale development in West Virginia.

The 138 kilovolt project will stretch 18 miles across Harrison and Doddridge counties, WV. The new line, which is expected to be energized and in service by the summer, will connect a transmission substation in Clarksburg, WV, to one near Sherwood, WV. MarkWest Energy Partners LP operates its Sherwood Processing Facility in Doddridge County.

The new line parallels an existing FirstEnergy transmission line for approximately 11 miles of its route. It will also improve service reliability for about 13,000 customers of subsidiary Mon Power, the company said.

The project represents about $92 million in total investment, with about $43 million of that total to be spent in 2016.

FirstEnergy completed its Sherwood substation in 2014 at a cost of about $56 million. That project was also aimed at supporting nearby gas development.

“FirstEnergy continues to support West Virginia’s important shale gas industry with infrastructure enhancements such as this new transmission line,” said Holly Kauffman, FirstEnergy’s president of West Virginia Operations. “Natural gas plants and compressor stations are energy intensive operations. It is our job to both keep pace with industry demands and to ensure our longtime customers in the region continue to receive safe and reliable electric service.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, production from the Marcellus Shale — a primary target for West Virginia producers — has remained strong despite falling prices, averaging 17.4 Bcf/d in March. However, the rig count — including both gas- and oil-directed rigs — fell to 30 for the month from a year-ago total of 68.

Mon Power serves about 385,000 customers across 34 counties in West Virginia.

Last year, FirstEnergy said it had spent about $6 million to support the electricity needs of shale development in Ohio (see Shale Daily, Jan. 5, 2015).