Region’s natural gas output increasing, MPLX official tells Steubenville Rotary Club

Mark Law IN THE PIPELINE — Keith Murdock, Steubenville Rotary Club president, left, and Curtis Mullins, Rotary Club program director for Friday’s meeting, right, talk with guest speaker Sam Schupbach, MPLX vice president of operations and processing, about the company’s operations in the region.

STEUBENVILLE — Sam Schupbach, MPLX vice president of operations and processing, told the Steubenville Rotary Club the dry gas production and fractionation of wet gas is steadily increasing in the region.

Schupbach, whose company is comprised of MarkWest and Marathon Petroleum, said drilling of gas and oil was slow to begin in the region because of the lack of infrastructure to refine the products and move it to market via pipelines.

He said MPLX was fortunate in the early construction of pipelines and the MarkWest fractionator in Harrison County.

MPLX processes 70 percent of the gases in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the region.

MPLX doesn’t own any of the product produced, he said. The company only refines and sends it to market through the company’s 8,000 miles of pipeline across 17 states.

MPLX has been the top-rated midstream service provider for more than a decade.

Schupbach said the company’s production has been increasing year-over-year. The Sherwood complex in West Virginia produces 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas each day, which Schupbach said is enough to heat more than 9 million homes a day. He said the Sherwood facility is the largest gas processing plant in North America.

Other company facilities, such as the Hopedale plant, separate various gases from the pumped gas, including methane, ethane and butane. He said there is virtually no waste products at the plants. He said the Hopedale plant is the largest fractionator west of the Mississippi River.

After the fractionation process, the product can be shipped via pipeline to anywhere in the country.

The pipeline network in the region is complex, connecting various lines owned by other companies.

Schupbach said the lines actually connect right to the drilling well site.

He said ethane is the biggest talk of the local drilling industry, with the Shell cracker plant under construction in Monaca, Pa.

He said the company will need about 100,000 barrels of ethane a day. Schupbach said there is already that supply in the region, and then some.

In fact, Schupbach said there is enough ethane in the region to serve five cracker plants.

The cracker plants produce ethylene, which is turned into plastic products.

Schupbach said companies like Eagle Manufacturing in Wellsburg will greatly benefit from the availability of ethylene in making its plastic products, such as gasoline cans.

Schupbach said the efficiency of MPLX translates into its customers being efficient and keeping the drilling going.

Schupbach said the jobs being created in the region can translate into young people, who left the area seeking jobs, being able to return home.

“I think our future is bright,” he said.