MarkWest resumes operations at processing plant

June 2, 2014
A view of the MarkWest compressor station in Chartiers Township - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The MarkWest natural gas processing plant in Chartiers Township resumed some operations Monday morning, five days after a lightning strike caused a leak at the complex and prompted evacuations nearby.

The company announced on its website it restarted production at plants 1 and 2, while adding it will keep the third plant shut down indefinitely to complete repairs.

The lightning strike during severe storms May 28 prompted emergency responders to ask about 100 nearby residents to leave their homes for several hours while the leak was contained. No one was injured in the incident, which damaged a heat exchanger, the company said.

However, the plant was shut down while crews investigated and checked for damage across the facility.

MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale said they are unsure of the extent of the damage to the third plant and could not predict when that section might be brought back into production.

“At this point, we are still assessing the damage and do not have any further information,” McHale wrote in an email.

The company has been rerouting some gas to its complex in Majorsville, W.Va., about 25 miles southwest of Houston, to keep production levels at capacity while the MarkWest plant here is repaired.

Washington County Emergency Services Director Jeff Yates said his office is preparing to hold an “after-action” discussion with MarkWest officials and local emergency responders to review the situation. He added they were pleased with the response to the emergency and evacuation of nearby homes.

“Everything went the way it should have,” Yates said. “We feel pretty good about how everything was handled.”

Some residents spent about four hours at local fire departments as emergency responders assessed the situation. Yates said his department set up perimeter air monitors to test if any natural gas was in the vicinity, which allowed them to be confident that any danger at the plant had been mitigated when they allowed residents to return to their homes.

Initial fears the lightning strike had started a fire inside the plant proved unfounded.

“You look at conditions, and then if they change, you adjust accordingly,” Yates said. “You have to know what to do and be fluid with the situation.”

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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