New Castle News

December 20, 2013

Top 10 Stories, Number 10: Natural gas industry booming in county

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Natural gas continues to establish a strong foothold in Lawrence County.

Since the first permits were issued here for Marcellus/Utica shale well drilling two years ago, drilling companies and larger corporations have begun establishing well pads, laying major gas transmission pipelines and constructing a cryogenic gas processing plant just over the Lawrence County line in Ohio.

Those activities have signaled a wave in the gas market’s future in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, while plans are beginning for a gas-fueled electricity generating plant in North Beaver Township.

And Shell Chemical is still considering the construction of a petrochemical plant in Midland, Beaver County.

Pulaski Township has seen the most shale drilling activity in the county so far. Several well pads are established or in the planning, and each well pad has multiple wells.

Hilcorp Energy Corp. has built two well pads on properties of Laird Whiting on Garner Road and Richard Kinkela on Valley View Road.

Work is beginning for a well pad on the Howard Artman property on Maple Lane, and the township recently granted conditional use approvals for that and one for Ratvasky Landscape Supply off Garner and Nashua roads.

Four others planned in the township have not yet gone through the township hearing process for their required conditional use approvals.

 Drilling is expected to get under way next year in neighboring Mahoning Township, where, according to Supervisor Vito Yeropoli, construction of one well pad is starting off Garner Road and several more are planned.

“There’s really nothing pumping, yet,” he said, and the township has not had any zoning hearings for conditional use approvals.

The Hickory Bend pipeline will pass through Mahoning Township, and Yeropoli said that work is scheduled to start Jan. 6.

In North Beaver Township, one well pad exists on the Kephart property, but that is the only one in the township so far.

On the eastern end of the county, Shell Appalachia has been doing exploratory drilling on leased acreage in Slippery Rock and Washington townships.

In March 2012, Shell Chemical signed a land option agreement for a site near Monaca in Beaver County for possible construction of a petrochemical plant.

The next steps for this project include additional site evaluation, further engineering design studies, assessment of local ethane supply, and continued evaluation of the economic viability of the project, according to information from Shell Chemical’s website.

The company sought bids for ethane suppliers for the proposed petrochemical complex in the fall, and the cutoff date for those bids was Oct. 4.

Shell Chemical still has critical milestones to achieve before making a final investment decision on whether to proceed with construction of the proposed complex, according to its website information.

Meanwhile, four major gas pipelines are in the works that will pass through Lawrence County.

The Hickory Bend Gathering System will extend about 55 miles through northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

That project will have two different pipelines coming through the area, according to Sara Barczyk, manager of community relations for NiSource Midstream Services.

Hickory Bend is a project of NiSource, which also is building a cryogenic gas processing plant in New Middletown, Ohio, in partnership with Harvest Pipeline Co., which is the midstream subsidiary of Hilcorp Energy.

A third project is the Sunoco Allegheny Access pipeline, originating in Mogadore, Ohio, and going south to Vanport in Beaver County, crossing through a section of Little Beaver Township.

The fourth pipeline is part of the Bluegrass Pipeline project by Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners. Locally, it will originate near Grove City in Mercer County and extend southwest through Lawrence County into Ohio and ultimately to Kentucky.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)