KENSINGTON, Ohio - One of the projects resulting from the shale boom in the valley started operating this week, and will now enable further development of the industry locally.

According to a news release from M3 Midstream LLC president and chief executive officer Frank Tsuru, the first phase of the Utica East Ohio Midstream, LLC project was put in service on Monday.

The newly constructed facility is receiving Utica Shale production, processing natural gas liquids and redelivering residue gas to interstate markets. 

The release says the plant is the first fully integrated gathering, processing and fractionation complex to be put into operation in eastern Ohio.   

The system includes approximately 63 miles of natural gas and natural gas liquids gathering lines, a 200-million cubic-feet-per-day cryogenic processing facility located near Kensington, Columbiana County, and a 45,000-barrel-per-day natural gas liquids fractionation, storage and rail facility near Scio, Harrison County.

With the completion of the second and third phases of the project, the system will consist of 800-million cubic-feet-per-day of cryogenic processing, 135,000 barrels-per-day of natural gas liquids fractionation, 870,000 barrels of natural gas liquids storage and a rail facility capable of loading 90 cars-per day with full scalability to increase processing, fractionation and rail loading capacity to almost double the initial amount. 

"Completing the first stage of this project is an important milestone in advancing the development of the Utica Shale formation in Ohio, as wells can begin producing both natural gas and natural gas liquids, with this processing system getting those products an important step closer to homes, businesses and industrial users," said Tsuru.  "We are pleased to commission the first fully integrated natural gas processing and fractionation project in Ohio, and proud that these facilities have been built safely and in compliance with Ohio's environmental regulations."

Mark Houser, President and CEO of EV Energy Partners commented, "We are thrilled to be part of the midstream infrastructure development of the Utica Shale play.  The commencement of operations for the UEO project will be a huge boost for the Utica Shale producers that have been significantly constrained by the lack of sufficient midstream infrastructure in the area." 

More than 1,700 people have been employed to construct the facilities.  Approximately 50 people will be employed to operate the two facilities, with an additional 15 jobs focused on operating the rail terminal at the Scio plant.  More than 60 percent of the workers hired to date to operate the plants are natives of Ohio, according to the release.

Construction will continue on the second processing and fractionation units, which are scheduled to be completed in December 2013.