Thought piece

Today in Marcellus Drilling News, Jim Willis published a great piece on ethane crackers, storage hubs, and economic development for Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In particular, Jim does a great job connecting the dots between the technological and economic complexity of shale production and its distribution. The Appalachian Basin is starting to provide many gifts beyond natural gas and tight oil to the three directly involved states. In fact, it is quietly transforming the industrial and commercial markets for the entire Midwest, while reducing carbon emissions in the US. Thanks for the seminar, Jim.

Southpointe Event Focuses on M-U NGL Storage Hub

Yesterday the second annual Appalachian Storage Hub Conference convened at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe. Topic A (and B and C) was the proposed $10 billion NGL storage hub, which we’ve written about in the past (see our stories here). When you drill for one hydrocarbon, like natural gas (methane), you inevitably get other hydrocarbons coming out of the ground along with it. In southwestern PA, the northern panhandle of WV, and eastern OH, those other hydrocarbons are NGLs–natural gas liquids–including ethane, propane, and butane. NGLs are key to the petrochemical industry. Ethane can be chemically “cracked” to produce ethylene, or raw plastics. Shell is building a $6 billion ethane cracker in Monaca (Beaver County), PA, near Pittsburgh. A second ethane cracker is likely to get built in Belmont County, OH–by PTT Global Chemical. Manufacturing companies then locate near the crackers so they can use the ethylene pellets created by the crackers in their own manufacturing processes. It’s all connected. And right in the center of it, at the nexus, is the ability to store ethane and other NGLs. Without storage, you have to immediately use the NGLs as soon as they are produced. Which doesn’t often happen. There is a mismatch–a delay between the time NGLs are produced and the time they are needed at the plant for cracking/processing. A storage hub addresses that issue and makes everything work. A storage hub is so critical that an entire one-day event was organized to talk about it…