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Ohio Utica Shale

Harrison Hub plant for Utica liquids at Scio is still growing

By Bob Downing Published: May 24, 2014

SCIO: The Beast is getting bigger.

The Beast is the term that Texas-based Momentum Midstream spokesman Eric Mize lovingly uses to describe the new and growing liquids-separating complex in northern Harrison County.

He also refers to the sprawling facility as the Big Boy. "It is a big plant, a very big plant and far bigger than other plants around here.…What’s really amazing that we got it up and running in six months. No one believed that we could do that."

The facility, part of $1.6 billion three-plant processing complex, sits at the edge of tiny Scio with its 760 residents and one traffic signal.

The so-called fractionation plant is designed to separate the natural gas liquids that come from Ohio’s Utica shale, store it and ship it. The plant is a mile long and half mile wide.

The Scio plant processes 90,000 barrels a day today and that volume will soon be growing again.

It is one of two liquids-separating plants in eastern Ohio that are needed by midstream or processing companies to separate liquids and get them to market. It is added evidence that Ohio’s shale boom is real.

Such liquids can produce revenue of $60 or more per barrel, and that makes them very lucrative for energy companies. Those Ohio liquids are expected to produce $450 million in revenues in 2014, separate from natural gas and oil.

The other Ohio liquids-processing plant was built by MarkWest Energy Partners in Jewett in Harrison County with 60,000 barrels per day of capacity. That Hopedale Complex will have an additional 78,000 barrels available by late 2014.

Construction on the 1.2-mile-long Scio complex began in January 2013 and it was up and running six months later. It was officially dedicated last October.

The Scio plant is like a tea kettle or a distillery, heating the liquids to temperatures as high as 450 degrees.

It remains a work in progress with finishing touches being installed next to new construction and expansion.

It is a warren of pipes, valves and tanks of all sizes that cover a hillside above a still-growing rail yard. The liquids never see the light of day: They are totally contained within the pipes.

Together, the liquids on arrival are a clear, light liquid with the density of water. They produce what Mize called "a slightly organic smell." Others would call it a modest funky scent.

Earlier, the natural gas was removed by chilling it at a separate gas-processing plant at Kensington in southern Columbiana County. The No. 1 client is Chesapeake Energy Corp. The liquids are then sent 35 miles south by pipeline to the Scio plant, now called the Harrison Hub.

The complex is dominated by 198-foot-high towers that are used to heat and cool the liquids to individually boil off the hydrocarbon vapors and separate the liquids.

The liquids are boiled off from the lightest (ethane) to the heaviest (butane). The natural gasoline is left after three-step processing.

The liquids typically spend a couple of hours being separated within the plant, Mize said.

There are three towers in each unit and nine towers are now standing in the Harrison Hub, plus a 10th green-colored tower to heat the liquids.

The plant’s first train or unit has been running since last June and can process 45,000 42-gallon barrels per day. The second unit began operations last fall. That boosted production to about 90,000 barrels per day.

The third unit, now under construction next to the first two units, is scheduled to be running by July or August. There is room for a fourth unit, but officials have not yet announced any plans for even more capacity, Mize said.

With a fourth unit, the Harrison Hub would produce about 180,000 barrels per day of liquids or more.

If a fourth unit were to be added, that would make the Harrison Hub the largest plant of its kind in northeastern North America.

The facility is actually handling from 10 to 20 percent more than the daily 90,000-barrel capacity, company officials said.

The Harrison Hub’s system uses oil to heat the liquids to the desired temperatures. The liquids are cooled down by an air conditioning-like system and then reheated again to the desired temperatures to boil off the remaining liquids.

The Harrison Hub covers 594 acres that were formerly corn fields and includes a rail yard with 10 tracks to carry rail tankers holding up to 32,000 gallons of liquids to market.

The automated system, built and operated by Rail Link Inc., part of the Genesee & Wyoming Inc. railroad, is designed to fill 16 tanker rail cars in 90 minutes, Mize said.

The one-mile-long rail yard will be able to fill 150 to 200 tankers per day and send them to market via the Ohio Central Railroad that serves the rail yard. That could total 10,000 rail tank cars per year.

Interestingly, the rail yard was built with steel rail ties, not wood, and steel clips that made construction easier and quicker.

The liquids may also be moved by nearby pipelines and by trucks.

That includes ethane shipments to Texas via the ATEX or the Appalachian to Texas Express Pipeline.

Where the products will go depends on the driller that owns the products. The companies involved in the Harrison Hub are paid for the processing and shipping.

The Scio complex includes a wide array of storage tanks for the products.

When completed, there will be four propane storage tanks 110 feet high on the grounds that are each capable of holding eight million gallons. There are white butane storage tanks, each capable of storing 2.1 million gallons.

There are two tanks, each capable of holding up to 2 million gallons of natural gasoline. Those tanks include a safety feature to spray foam in case of an accident.

There are 20 bullet tanks near the rail yard. Each can hold up to 123,500 gallons of propane or butane. They sit on a rack 20 feet in the air to avoid on-the-ground collisions with equipment.

The facility is designed to store up to 870,000 barrels. Typically, the product is stored for three or four days.

Safety equipment and safety systems are everywhere.

The only smell noticeable on the grounds was a trace of mercaptan, a rotten smell added to propane. There had been a small leak, Mize said.

The Harrison Hub was built and is operated by Momentum Midstream (also known as M3 Midstream LLC).

It is one of three companies involved in Utica East Ohio Midstream LLC that includes cryogenic gas-processing plants at Kensington and one under construction at Leesville in southwest Carroll County and the Harrison Hub.

The other two companies are Texas-based EnerVest Ltd. and Oklahoma-based Access Midstream Partners LP.

At peak construction, up to 700 workers built the Harrison Hub, Mize said. Currently, 400 construction workers are toiling at the plant. It will have 60 to 70 full-time workers. He said 50 to 60 percent of the jobs have gone to Ohioans.

During peak construction, the plant got 400,000 vehicles, both worker vehicles and trucks making deliveries of equipment, over four months, Mize said.

The village and the plant are working to peacefully co-exist and some progress is being made, said village administrator Jake Tubaugh.

Not everyone is pleased with the plant, especially with the added traffic and the toll on local roads, he said.

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