Pipeline through Ohio given go-ahead, boosting potential of Utica shale

Source: Columbus Business First

A pipeline project to move natural gas liquids from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays to the Gulf Coast has taken a step forward with the board of directors at Williams Companies Inc. (NYSE:WMB) signing off on the plan.

The oil and gas pipeline and processing company, based in Tulsa, is teaming withBoardwalk Pipeline Partners LP(NYSE:BWP) of Houston to build the Bluegrass Pipeline. They hope to have the pipeline in service by late 2015 after federal and state regulatory approvals are obtained, said Williams spokeswoman Sara Delgado.

The project calls for construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline from the Utica and Marcellus shale plays in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to processing and storage facilities in Louisiana. Williams and Boardwalk disclosed the Bluegrass project in March, saying its first phase will provide oil and gas producers with 200,000 barrels per day of mixed natural gas liquid capacity.

While the exact route through Ohio is still to be determined, a preliminary map shows pipelines starting in Mahoning County along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and Monroe County along the Ohio River. They would merge in Noble County in southeast Ohio and then extend west toward the Cincinnati area before pushing south to connect with Boardwalk’s pipeline system in Hardinsburg, Ky. From there, the gas liquids would be shipped via existing natural gas pipelines to Louisiana.

The pipeline could boost development of the Utica shale play, which oil and gas experts have said appears to be rich in gas liquids such as ethane, propane and butane. As I’ve reported, production in the Utica play has been slowed by a dearth of pipelines and processing facilities.

The Bluegrass pipeline is another project that will help the Utica maximize its potential as one of the premiere shale plays in the U.S., said Shawn Bennett, director of Energy In Depth Ohio, an oil and gas trade group focused on shale gas development.

“It’s great news,” Bennett told me. “It will take a lot of excess natural gas liquids and get them to market. (Oil and gas) producers and land owners will benefit greatly.”