Ribbon cut on processing plant

PETERSBURG – The scale of the Mahoning Valley’s shale boom extended its powerful economic reach into Springfield Township with the dedication of the $150 million Hickory Bend Cryogenic Processing Plant on Monday.

Gov. John Kasich assisted officials of Pennant Midstream, a joint venture between NiSource Midstream Services and Harvest Pipeline, with a symbolic ribbon-cutting.

Harvest Pipeline is an affiliate of Hilcorp Energy Co.

More than 100 people, including state, county and township officials, attended the dedication.

The plant separates dry gas from natural liquid gas (NLGs) and is expected to begin shipping the first of its 200 million cubic feet per day capability to the M3 Momentum fractionation plant in Kensington in December.

The Kensington plant in Columbiana County is 38 miles from the Hickory Bend plant, and will forward its products to a plant in Harrison County.

The Hickory Bend natural gas gathering pipeline system extends through northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and represents a $375 million initial investment in the region.

Robert C. Skaggs, president and CEO of NiSource, said the Hickory Bend system employs more than 2,000 people and will invest billions in the region.

“This will be the fountainhead of energy in Ohio,” he said while thanking Hilcorp for its backing and many local officials for welcoming and helping the joint venture.

“You’ve made it good to be here,” Skaggs said and lauded Kasich as one of the most vocal believers and supporters.

Skaggs called Kasich, “The real deal.”

Chad Zamarin, chief operating officer for NiSource Midstream and president of Pennant Midstream, said the plant is state-of-the-art and will facilitate “responsible development of Utica shale.”

The Hickory Bend plant will boast the “cleanest technology available,” Zamarin said, adding, “We’re committed to being good neighbors.”

Kasich said coming to Ohio was “the better decision between” Ohio and Pennsylvania while noting that the anti-fracking problem isn’t a problem with “us or the companies” but with sons whose mothers have to get them out of the house and into jobs.

The early concern was on whether they were going to hire Ohioans, Kasich said, but quickly noted NiSource has made a commitment to hire from within the state and is in the process of training now.

The Hickory Bend plant has supported about 500 construction jobs.

Carlton Ingram, business manager for Local 66, said there was no greater example of economic development than being an associate on the pipeline.

Local educators are involved with training future employees and in light of the scope and range of the Utica and Marcellus shale plays “adjacent technologies” must be identified for diversification … so if a torpedo hits one part there are others left, Kasich said.

“Manufacturing is beginning to think about how to take advantage of it so everything seems to fit. We just need to take advantage of it.

“Everything I hear, the deposits we have in Ohio are good,” Kasich said, adding, “the roll-out was a little slow partly due to (shale) formations. Basically wet gas with dry gas … and basically separating the wet from the dry gas. The challenge in the oil industry is making the oil flow.”

Springfield Township Trustee Robert Orr said the message is there is hope that greater days are ahead and David Mustine, managing director of energy, polymers and chemicals for JobsOhio, said the plant was “very important for the development of the Utica.”

“We’re your long-term partner,” Mustine said.

Columbiana County Commissioner Tim Weigle understood how excited Mahoning County and Springfield Township officials must be, comparing it to the Kensington M3 Momentum plant development.

Both the plants have expansion capabilities.

A private pilot, Weigle said that the view from 2,500 feet “really brings it all together” regarding the installation of pipeline.

The Hickory Bend pipeline runs through Fairfield Township and Trustee Barry Miner said he understood the industry is really interested in the oil and is developing ways to extract it.

He said it might take awhile but the technology will get here.

He said the capital outlay being spent for infrastructure “is amazing.”

Miner said Hickory Bend is wrapping up the installation of pipe in Fairfield Township and Bluegrass Pipeline, another system, will also have a presence in the township.

He said Bluegrass is “still in environmentals” and working with property owners.

“So, if you’re contacted by Bluegrass, chances are that is the route they want to take,” Miner said.

A group of some 20 demonstrators were on State Line Road shouting during the speaking portion of the dedication but were of little disruption.

Laurie Barr of Potter County, Pa. and a founding member of “Save our Streams,” said there are a number of abandoned wells on the plant site which is part of the Bessemer oilfield.

She said the plant will provide pathways to the surface for methane gas leaks.

During his speech, Kasich made an offer to Youngstown to fix its schools.

“We’re ready … put children first … bring us your plan, we’re ready to work with you. We will help you to design a program to fix this. Put those kids first … you can raise this valley,” he said.