Midstream infrastructure unblocks shale gas potential

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Recoverable reserves of natural gas in the United States have increased enormously in recent years as a result of new production technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Previously locked into shale formations, the flow of gas from these deep rocks is increasing every day.

In some regions where shale gas production has great potential, the gas reaching the surface poses a new challenge – what to do with it?  Areas such as eastern Ohio, which lies atop the enormously rich Utica Shale, lack a midstream infrastructure, the network of pipelines and processing plants necessary to move natural gas from the wellhead to the market.  Several companies are collaborating on the Utica East Ohio Midstream project (UEO), an integrated system of services that will result in new jobs and increase energy independence in the United States.

Separation of valuable hydrocarbons


The UEO system includes cryogenic processing plants in Columbiana and Carroll Counties, and a fractionation plant Harrison County.  Cryogenic processing plants chill the natural gas that flows from wells to around -120 degrees Fahrenheit. At this cold temperature, valuable hydrocarbons such as butane, ethane and propane liquefy and separate from the methane that is the primary component of natural gas.  Fractionation plants further process and purify the NGL for use as petrochemical feedstock or fuel.

UEO’s Harrison fractionation facility consists of three separate but identical plants each processing 45,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of NGL.  The plants are built around propane refrigerant compressors and depropanizer heat pump strings using efficient, reliable centrifugal compressors and support systems from Elliott Group, Jeannette Pennsylvania.

A joint venture

The UEO system is a joint venture among Momentum, Access Midstream Partners and EV Energy Partners to provide customers with gas gathering, cryogenic processing, fractionation, storage of natural gas liquids (NGL), rail loading, and gas and NGL delivery options.

M3 Midstream, LLC (Momentum) is an independent energy company that helps natural gas producers to bring the gas to market. Momentum and its partners chose S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd. to perform engineering and procurement for the UEO plants. 

S&B Engineers is a privately owned company that provides engineering and construction services in the refining, chemicals, and midstream industries, with a recent focus on NGL fractionation facilities. 

For more than 100 years, Elliott has designed and built compressors and steam turbines for industrial and power markets. Elliott’s designs are said to offer full API compliance and side load blending technology that deliver efficiency and value. Kyle Carpenter, Elliott’s Regional Director – Americas for Engineered Products said fractionation plants require significant refrigeration loads, a technology that Elliott and S&B Engineers “know very well.”