Parkersburg, W. Va. — A new natural gas plant in Doddridge County, W.Va., is expected to benefit the industry and the local community, as the oil and gas industry seems to be emerging as a major driving force for the economy in the region.

As the ribbon-cutting of the new MarkWest Sherwood Processing Plant took place on December 6, owner MarkWest Energy Partners said there is another one under construction at the site, due to start operation next year, and announced that plans for a third one are being considered, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported.

The natural gas processing plant is where natural gas is refined and prepared to reach homes and businesses. Once the gas is extracted, it has to go through several stages of processing before it can be used by the public. First, the liquid needs to be extracted from the gas because it cannot be used as a heat source if it contains liquid, as it would be highly flammable, explained Frank Semple, president and CEO of MarkWest Energy Partners. After being extracted, the liquids can be used by petrochemical companies in the production of plastics.

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The completed processing plant and the one under construction will each have a production capacity of 200 million cubic feet of gas a day and will process shale gas to produce propane, butane and ethane.

The amount of gas that the new plant will process is sufficient to supply a five-figure number of families and businesses. But this won’t be the only benefit from the plant, according to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, as it will create jobs for the local community. Hundreds of workers were employed during the construction phase and at least 20 full-time jobs will be created with the plant working at full capacity.

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The MarkWest Sherwood Processing Plant will use shale gas supplied by Antero Resources Appalachian Corp., an exploration and production company that operates four wells nearby. Paul Rady, chairman of Antero, said that the company had sold the assets it used to own in Oklahoma and Colorado because it wanted to fully concentrate on the West Virginia resources. So far it has spent $700 million in the Harrison and Doddridge counties on shale development. Antero has a total of 12 rigs in the two counties and employs about 3,500 people, Rady said.

Antero is planning to make further investments by building a new office in Bridgeport to add to its Ellenboro office, in addition to which there will be several compressed natural gas service stations opening along I-79, near Bridgeport.