Blue Racer Midstream’s Natrium plant in West Virginia is finally operating

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer

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The Natrium Processing and Fractionation Facility is running.

That’s good news for drillers in Ohio’s Utica shales who have been waiting for the $500 million facility to be completed.

No opening announcement was made, but the cryogenic processing plant in northern West Virginia has quietly been up and running for a couple of weeks, said Dan Donovan, a spokesman for Dominion Resources.

The plant is part of $1.5 billion transportation-and-processing venture between Dominion Resources and Caiman Energy II LLC known as the Blue Racer Midstream.

The plant on the Ohio River in Natrium, W.Va., covers 3 million square feet, required 2,200 tons of structural steel, 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, 36 miles of piping, 227 miles of wire, 34,700 welds and nearly 1,000 skilled workers, the company said.

It’s oft-delayed opening is expected to reduce the bottleneck for drillers producing wet gases or liquid-rich natural gas in the Utica and Marcellus shales in Ohio and surrounding states.

In Phase 1, the Natrium complex will process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and fractionate or separate 36,000 42-gallon barrels of natural gas liquids (ethane, butane, propane, isobutane, unrefined gasoline) per day.

The plant is close to natural gas transmission lines that can ship the gas to market after it is processed. It is also close to highways, rail and the Ohio River.

Once driller commitments are finalized, the plant will be expanded to process 400 million cubic feet per day and fractionate 59,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day.

That addition should be operating by the first quarter 2014.

The liquids are extracted by heating the fuel mix.

As each vaporizes, that component is chilled and sent for storage or continues to be heated for further extraction and processing until a liquid.

Two other processing plants, each capable of handing 200 million cubic feet per day, would then be built by Blue Racer in Ohio’s Monroe and Mahoning counties.

The three facilities would be capable of processing 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day as the Utica shale development grows.

Blue Racer is also exploring an additional plant in Harrison County and will add a 60-mile ethane pipeline to connect to the Atex pipeline to carry liquids to the Gulf Coast when that line is completed.

Initial plans had called for Natrium complex to begin operations by last Dec. 31.

Blue Racer Midstream was formed in December by Virginia-based Dominion and Texas-based Caiman Energy.

Dominion provided its existing midstream or processing assets including 500 miles of Dominion East Ohio gas-gathering lines in the Utica shale, the Natrium plant in West Virginia’s Marshall County and a Dominion Transmission pipeline connecting Natrium to the Dominion East Ohio gas-gathering system.

Caiman’s contribution included $800 million in equity capital assets and the experience and expertise required to manage and expand Dominion’s asset base.

The Blue Racer name came from the blue racer snake that is native to Ohio and known for its speed.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.


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