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State legislators on energy tour visit largest natural gas plant in Utah

Utah State Senators David Hinkins and Kevin Van Tassell stand with Representative Kraig Howell as plant superintendent Tim Bates gives them a tour of the Anadarko Chipeta Natural Gas Processing Plant.
One of the refining towers at the Chipeta Plant. The entire plant is less than three years old.

Sun Advocate publisher

Legislators from Salt Lake and eastern Utah visited a large natural gas refining and compressor plant in Uintah County after Memorial Day during a tour arranged by Utah Sen. Kevin Van Tassell.

The group, consisting of Senators Van Tassell of Vernal, David Hinkins of Orangeville, Margaret Dayton of Orem, Karen Mayne of Sale Lake, Ross Romero of Salt Lake and House of Representatives member Kraig Howell of Heber.

The plant lies south of Naples and is a gathering point for gas that extracted from resources across the southern part of Uintah County.

Known as the Anadarko Chipeta Natural Gas Processing Plant, the operation was developed in partnership with Ute Energy (25 percent owners).

The plant opened in 2008 in the Greater Natural Buttes gas field with a $300 million initial capital investment.

Overall the company has invested more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in natural gas production in Utah since 2007.

"Anadarko's local employment at this time is over 200 skilled plant Uintah Basin employees and has paid over $278 million in taxes, royalties and salaries over the last two years," Tim Bates, the plant superintendent, told those on the tour.

The plant and its extensions also employes hundreds of contractors in the area.

To the layman's eye, the plant is a complex labyrinth of tanks, pipes, pumps and buildings.

The tour, however, brought the point up that each section has its own function, but the overall purpose of the plant is to provide natural gas for residences and industry throughout the region.

The Natural Buttes gas gathering system includes more than 700 miles of gas gathering pipeline with 40 gas compressors at 23 sites, totaling 57,000 horsepower.

Presently ,Anadarko is the largest producer of natural gas in Utah.

The company produces enough natural gas in Utah to heat or cool twice the number of homes in the state each day. That would amount to 1.6 million average American homes.

The natural resource processed at the plant comes from "tight gas" wells located throughout the area.

Tight gas is different from the coalbed methane produced in the Carbon and Emery County areas. Coal bed methane gas lies in shallower beds and is usually found in pockets, while tight gas is drawn from much deeper under the ground and migrates through the rock and ground. The composition between the two kinds of gas is also slightly different.

Natural gas also doesn't come right out of the ground ready use. It must have some processing done to it and that is one of the major functions of the Anadarko Chipeta Natural Gas Processing Plant. That processing removes impurities and some useful by-products that are also developed and sold to industry.

The processing plant is operating two (and soon three) processing trains (operation lines processing gas) at the Chipeta facility and there may be more on the way. The first train began operating in late 2007. It is a refrigeration plant. The second train added cryogenic capacity to the plant and the third will do the same thing.

The plant is expanding, and with new pipelines will provide connections to multiple downstream interstate pipelines, much like Opal in the Green River Basin of Wyoming. The Chipeta facility will have interconnects with four different interstate pipelines when the project is completed.

Anadarko's growth in the region has been slowed somewhat by the economic down turn, but remains, according to operators, committed to grow production 25 percent over the next five years.

The legislators were guided through the plant after a safety training course and had to wear all the proper safety gear during the tour. Their first stop was in an impressive control room in the main building where walls covered with flat screen monitors told of gas being processed across the facility.

The walking tour then went outside and headed between the processing trains as the facilities supervisors explained the processes.

This is one in a series of stories about a legislative tour of energy fields in eastern Utah that took place in late May.

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