Company to build ethane storage facility

CLARINGTON — Mountaineer NGL Storage officials announced plans Thursday to spend $150 million — and potentially as much as $500 million — on its proposed natural gas liquids storage facility along the Ohio River near Clarington.

By 2019, company Managing Director David Hooker hopes to store up to 420 million gallons of ethane, propane and butane in caverns along the river, with the goal of allowing the potential PTT Global Chemical cracker plant to access the product via pipelines that would only need to stretch about 10 miles.

Also, the Mountaineer NGL Storage project could be the first part of the Appalachian Storage Hub, or “ethane hub,” which American Chemistry Council officials said could eventually lead to $36 billion worth of investment and about 100,000 permanent jobs.

“We are pretty excited about this project,” Hooker said Thursday. “It is a nice means for industrial growth in the area. It will be nice to keep the product local.”

Hooker said he already has a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation, but is still waiting for authorization from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“We feel like we have a pretty good rapport with the Ohio EPA. They are pretty clear about what they want from us. We need permits from Ohio EPA, ODNR and ODOT, and we have secured all permitting with ODOT already,” Hooker said. “We are working on some issues with ODNR, but they have been very accommodating.”

Hooker said he expects all environmental permits for the project to be obtained within the first six months of 2018, after which construction could begin.

“We’re pleased to see that the support of this regional effort is as strong as it is, and we believe that the Mountaineer NGL Storage project highlights how the private sector can take steps to address critical storage solutions for the burgeoning petrochemical industry,” Hooker added. “We think that our investment will encourage significant additional NGL infrastructure support in the region, as well.”

Since discussion of a Marcellus and Utica shale ethane cracker began, industry leaders have maintained a major obstacle is the lack of underground storage capacity for the natural gas liquid. This is needed, they say, to ensure a constant source of ethane to the cracker plant in the event of supply disruptions.

“It would certainly help solve the lack of storage problem,” Hooker said Thursday.

Hooker continues work on his underground storage cavern endeavor, which he hopes to open on former coal mine property along the Ohio River. He has said the plan is to operate three pipelines that will run beneath the river, in addition to those that may run toward the PTT site. Preliminary plans called for these lines to run under the river — one carrying ethane from the Marshall County Blue Race Natrium natural gas processing plant to the Monroe County caverns; one transporting a combination of propane and butane from the Natrium plant to the caverns; and one sending salt brine waste from salt brine from Clarington to a West Virginia chlorine plant.

“It will be more than a mile underground. We’ve drilled 48 bore-holes into the ground to make sure it is stable,” Hooker said.

Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said the permitting process for the facility has been relatively slow because the Ohio EPA has had to write new regulations for natural gas liquids storage facilities.

“Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas and I are going to contact the Ohio EPA together. We think that if we form a two-county partnership we can help move the process along,” Schumacher said.

During the summer, Hooker joined a panel discussion in Canonsburg, Pa. organized by West Virginia University to discuss storage capacity for the Appalachian Storage Hub, which American Chemistry Council officials said could eventually lead to $36 billion worth of total investment in the region. Hooker’s Monroe County operation would fall into one of the “top-rated” zones, as the salt walls in the area are estimated at 100 feet thick.

U.S. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said the project is promising because of the caverns’ proximity not only to the possible PTT project, but also the confirmed Royal Dutch Shell ethane cracker under construction in Beaver County, Pa.

“With a new ethane cracker plant coming to the area and our abundant supply of natural gas, investments like this will create thousands of good-paying jobs, spark new private investment, and bring billions of dollars in new revenue to the region,”McKinley said.

“With one ethane cracker construction underway in our region and the potential for another just around the corner, new requirements are emerging for ethane storage and pipeline infrastructure projects,” Johnson added. “These are positive, opportunity-creating developments for the hard-working people of eastern and southeastern Ohio, and I will continue to ensure Congress does not limit this new and growing economic potential, but instead helps to grow it.”