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Economy and Business

Utica fractionator helps ease propane shortage
Industrial-scale processor tapped its production stream to make local propane delivery

Tim Rudell
Working on valves at the M3 Momentum fractionator facility
Courtesy of M3 Momentum
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In The Region:

Having a “fractionator” nearby came in handy for some Columbiana County residents, who were about to run out of fuel to heat their homes this week.  WKSU’s Tim Rudell explains…starting with:  "What’s a fractionator?”

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First, it’s big
It is a half-a-billion-dollar chemical plant that separates products like methane, butane and propane from the typical raw output of a Utica Shale well.  This one is in the woods near Scio, in Harrison County, two-dozen miles south and west of Columbiana County.

It's not built for local service, but…
Monday, a regional propane shortage became acute, with delivery delays threatening to leave some rural residents with no home heating fuel. Luke Newbold of Columbiana County Emergency Management called Eric Mize of M3 Momentum -- the company that owns the fractionator and processes propane propane storage units on a massive commercial scale…to see if they could help locally.    “He immediately went to work and coordinated a delivery of upwards of eight thousand gallons of propane form the Scio plant.  And it was delivered that night.  It’s nice to have this connection…now we won’t be running out.”

Eric Mize says M3 actually began exploring local distribution before the shortage, and has a few area clients now. 

Related WKSU Stories

Bitter weather stretches limits of infrastructure
Monday, January 27, 2014

Ohio EPA chief tours shale gas processing plant
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

High-tech facility rises in the woods of eastern Ohio
Monday, June 24, 2013

Listener Comments:

Erin- Your comments are inaccurate. Just as Mr. Rudell cited in his article, frantionators separate hydrocarbons, which include methane, butane, propane, and hexane. Fractionators frequently use cryogenic processing to super cool the 'anes so they can separate these hydrocarbons from still-gaseous methane, enabling all the separated products to be shipped off to markets. In that fractionators separate chemical products, they are technically chemical plants.

Now, I'm not sure what the M3 Momentum Plant cost to construct, but these plants are very expensive-from tens of millions to a billion dollars in value nationwide. There's no reason to question Mr. Rudell's citation that this plant was a half billion dollar plant. The site is known as the "Harrison Hub" and consists of a large processing, storage and shipping facility, able to store 200,000 barrels of refrigerated liquids. The facility occupies 600 acres and includes 7,400 feet of rail-line frontage and another 40,000 feet of its own internal rail lines to manage shipping. It is a huge integrated facility.

Posted by: MEC Commissioner (North Carolina) on February 11, 2014 11:02AM
First off, fractionators don't separate methane, processing facilities do. Fractionators separate C3 (propane, butanes, natural gasoline ) into purity products.

Second, fractionators are not chemical plants and do not cost half a billion dollars.

Finally, nice typo. I believe you mean from not form...nice to see we have professionals in the media giving us accurate, well written coverage.

Posted by: Erin (Pittsburgh) on January 30, 2014 10:01AM
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