WOODSFIELD - Facing an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent at the end of 2011, Monroe County officials welcomed news this week that a Colorado-based energy company plans to locate a new natural gas-related processing plant there.
During a JobsOhio board meeting Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich announced a $500 million investment by MarkWest of Denver, would result in construction of three new processing plants in Monroe and Harrison counties.
Kasich said the plants would employ 50 to 100 people and are expected to be online in 2013.
Monroe County Commissioners learned of the plans Thursday.
"It's a surprise but certainly welcome news for the county," said Commissioner Tim Price.
"We've had reason to believe there would be some development as several energy companies have been looking at this area," he said. "Unemployment has always been high here, so this would definitely be a shot in the arm for this area."
Plans for the plants were initially announced in a MarkWest company news release Tuesday, which noted the effort would be a joint venture between MarkWest Energy and The Energy & Minerals Group (EMG), based in Houston, Texas.
The release said the two companies formed MarkWest Utica in December "to focus on the development of significant gas processing and NGL (natural gas liquids) fractionation, transportation, and marketing infrastructure to serve producers' aggressive drilling programs in the Utica shale in eastern Ohio."
The exact locations of the new facilities within Monroe and Harrison counties have not yet been determined, according to Dan Campbell, vice president of finance and treasurer for MarkWest.
"We chose the Ohio counties for several reasons," he said. "One is the location of wells being drilled by our customers as well as the proximity to gas pipelines across Ohio."
Campbell noted the company would also eventually require the ability to move product by rail.
"We put it all together to make the best geographic and business decision," he said.
The facilities will include a fractation plant and two processing units that remove liquids from the natural gas-containing materials extracted out of the Utica shale beds.
"The gas requires processing before it can be put in the pipeline that delivers natural gas into homes," Campbell explained.
According to the Gas Processors Association, once the natural gas liquids have been removed, they must be broken down into their base components for a variety of uses, including in the chemical and plastics industries.
The breaking-down process is called fractionation and separates ethane, propane and butane out of the natural gas liquids.
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, spoke with MarkWest officials Thursday.
"This would basically be a mini-refinery, a mid-process facility," he said. "And MarkWest is a top-notch, midstream company. They say they're thrilled to be doing this in southeastern Ohio."
Thompson noted the three largest natural gas-producing wells in Ohio are located in Harrison and Carroll counties which will be part of the new 95th House District.
And Harrison and Monroe counties are both located within Ohio's new 6th U.S. House District, currently represented by Congressman Bill Johnson.
"This is great news for Eastern Ohio," Johnson said in an emailed statement Thursday."MarkWest's announcement to start natural gas processing and fracking infrastructure development will bring hundreds of construction jobs and additional full-time jobs to Eastern Ohio-not to mention the countless indirect jobs. This is a perfect example of how harnessing America's natural energy resources will improve our economy and put Americans back to work."