Weirton Port Plays Role in Gas Liquids Transport

The State Journal
13 December 2012
Sending a barge loaded with a million gallons of natural gas liquids from Weirton to Houston via the Ohio River is an indication of the Mountain State's "very formidable" potential as an inland port, the executive director of the West Virginia Public Port Authority (WVPPA) says.

The gas liquids, known as wet gas, were mined in the Marcellus and Utica shale fields throughout the region and stored at a tank farm at the Half Moon Industrial Park in Weirton.

On Nov. 25, they were loaded on the tanker barge at the Pike Island Marine Terminal in Weirton and towed down the Ohio, arriving at the Mississippi River on Dec. 2.

WVPPA Executive Director James York said Weirton is one of just six designated inland port districts in the state, encompassing all of  Brooke and Hancock counties.

Strategically located between the mid-Atlantic seaports and Chicago, the Weirton port district is 40 miles long and has river, rail and interstate highway access, as well as being within a 30-minute drive of an international airport. York said all that makes it "a prime location … for businesses to set up."

York said a study done earlier in the year rated the Weirton port district as "strategically significant" to the state's inland port system, saying it could "potentially be an economic engine" for the state.

In announcing the successful barge operation, port officials said three unloading stations currently support the terminal, but a new four-bay station being built with local labor is nearly finished. When it's done, it will be capable of unloading in excess of 5,000 barrels of wet gas per hour.

Eventually, they plan to carve out a second four-bay station. And if all goes as planned, they said the port will eventually be a fully operational, multi-modal facility moving liquids by truck, rail and barge and offering enhanced communications, electronics and power capabilities.

York said the Ohio River gives the Mountain State a leg up on the competition, particularly since it's so easily accessible by rail, river and overland highways.

"That's the beauty of Weirton," he said, saying Northern Panhandle is positioned to capitalize on the opportunity.