Company to Boost Natural Gas Capacity in Columbiana

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Williams Companies, a Fortune 500 corporation based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, plans to invest additional resources in Columbiana County to accelerate delivery of natural gas to its midstream network across the Utica shale basin, the company confirms.

According to a spokesperson for Williams, the company “seeks to construct a compressor station in Hanover Township, an important part of the energy supply chain to bring clean, affordable natural gas to the area.”

Cardinal Gas Services LLC, a division of The Williams Companies Inc., on March 6 purchased 78 acres in the township off of McCann Road for $1.8 million, data from the Columbiana County auditor’s office show. The site is proximate to where Houston-based Encino Energy has recently drilled horizontal wells that have registered strong output of both gas and oil.

Compressor stations are vital to the region’s midstream development, as they essentially serve as boosters to natural gas traveling across pipelines. Extended distances, changes in elevation and friction often reduce the amount of pressure in pipelines. These stations use turbines, engines or motors to compress the natural gas and push it further along, either to another compressor or a processing plant.

“This extension of our current infrastructure will bolster service to the northern section of the gathering system, meeting customer demands and growth to the Utica basin,” the Williams spokesperson said in a statement.

Midstream infrastructure has long been a critical part of harvesting oil and gas from tight shale plays such as the Utica/Point Pleasant. Williams’ pipeline network connects these wells to processing plants such as its huge operation in Kensington, south of Hanoverton in Columbiana County.

The Kensington plant chills natural gas and then separates dry gas from wet gas. The dry gas is then fed into an existing natural gas pipeline, while the wet gas is transported by an 18-inch line to a large fractionation plant to the south in Harrison County. The Harrison County plant then separates the wet gas into specific products, such as ethane, propane or butane.

The Utica also produces a sizeable amount of liquid natural gas, which could be exported out of the United States worldwide, especially to markets in Europe.

Hanover Township Trustee John Zehentbauer says representatives from Williams have approached the township about entering into a road use management agreement, or RUMA.  These agreements ensure that energy companies maintain roadways should they be damaged by heavy truck traffic necessary to construct the compressor.

“We haven’t seen any drawings yet,” Zehentbauer says. “At some point, they’ll bring us a RUMA and we’ll review it. They’ll be doing some heavy work, I’m assuming.”

Zehentbauer says the project is an important piece of infrastructure that is essential to ongoing drilling programs in the Utica. “It’s a big piece,” he says. “Without this, they can’t keep drilling.”

Billions of dollars have been invested in midstream infrastructure since 2010, when oil and gas exploration began in earnest across eastern Ohio’s Utica play, says Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

“More than $20 billion has been invested in Ohio to build the necessary network of midstream projects to fully realize the Utica shale play over the past decade,” he says.

According to the most recent Shale Investment Dashboard report, prepared by Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Public Affairs and Education, a total of more than $103 billion has been invested in the Utica/Point Pleasant since exploration began.  Approximately $21.5 billion of that has been in infrastructure, the report shows.

CSU’s analysis covers project investments during the second half of 2022, when energy companies invested nearly $41 million in midstream development across Ohio’s Utica.

Pipeline and dehydration operations spearheaded by Williams Companies constituted $16.9 million over the last two quarters of 2022.  Other companies such as SWN Production invested $12.1 on a compression project in Monroe County; UGI Energy Services invested $1.2 million in pipeline infrastructure; Blue Racer Midstream’s compressor project in Carroll County required a $9 million investment during the period; while an Ascent Resources dehydration project in Belmont County elicited an investment of $1.7 million.


While midstream development has been active in portions of southeastern Ohio, attention has nevertheless shifted to the northern tier of the play in areas such as Columbiana County, where wells have demonstrated sustained oil and gas production.

Encino, which acquired most of Chesapeake Energy’s position in eastern Ohio in 2018, recently reported strong oil production from wells it’s drilled on the Sanor farm in Knox Township, which neighbors Hanover.

“We’ve gone from cautiously optimistic to optimistic about the Utica,” says Encino spokeswoman Jackie Stewart. Last year, Columbiana County’s wells produced nearly 1 million barrels of oil, an astounding improvement from past years. Generally, this section   of the Utica was generally known as a dry and wet gas play, but that has changed, she says.

At present, low natural gas prices have discouraged new exploration in other shale plays, Stewart says. “However, you see rig counts growing in Ohio because of the oil play beginning to develop. This part of the play was underappreciated from the start, and we’ve had this ability to reimagine what’s possible.”

The prospects of big oil and gas returns in this section of the Utica has also unleashed interest from companies seeking to acquire mineral rights in the region, officials say.

Greg Carver, a Knox Township trustee for 18 years, says a company recently contacted him about selling his mineral rights. He owns 15 acres in the township.

“They’ve approached other people in the area, too,” he says. “I told them ‘no.’”

In late February, more than $1.6 million worth of mineral rights was sold to a consortium consisting of Cavallo Minerals LLC, Cardinal Land & Mineral LLC and US Energy Development Corp. The deal consisted of the mineral rights to more than 345 acres in the township, data show, around Knox School, Bayard, and Bandy roads.

“I think they’re in hot pursuit of property,” Carver says. “There are a bunch of property owners looking to secure new leases. The bad thing is that you have to watch these oil people.”

Pictured at top: The Kensington plant separates dry and wet natural gas. The dry gas goes to the pipeline; the wet gas to a plant in Harrison County. Image: Williams Companies.