February 2020, Vol. 247, No. 2


Tumbleweed Midstream Acquires Ladder Creek Helium Plant, System

Newly established Tumbleweed Midstream announced it has acquired the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and its associated 730-mile (1,175-km) gathering and distribution pipeline systems from DCP Midstream. 

The plant, which separates helium from the natural gas stream and liquefies it for transport, serves producers operating in the Morrow, Mississippian, Spergen, Chester and Marmaton formations of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, where natural gas has average helium concentrations as high as 3%. 

Current processing capacity at the Ladder Creek cryogenic processing plant is 40 MMcf/d (1.13 million cubic meters) of natural gas, expandable to 50 MMcf/d (1.4 million cubic meters). The plant has the capacity to extract and liquefy 1.5 MMcf/d (42,000 cubic meters) of helium, with extraction and liquefaction to purity levels of 99.999%. The plant also produces natural gas liquids (NGLs) and residue gas. NGLs are transported via pipeline to the DCP Wattenberg pipeline for transportation to Conway, Kansas, for fractionation. Residue gas is sent via pipeline to CIG Rockies or to regional producers for use as fuel.

“The acquisition of the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System represents a significant opportunity for Tumbleweed Midstream,” said Tumbleweed CEO Durell Johnson, who served as project engineer and project manager for the Ladder Creek plant from its 1997 construction by Union Pacific Resources through its 1999 acquisition by DCP.

“The growth of Ladder Creek’s helium operations starts with delivering our current customers superior economics with the highest level of service,” Johnson said. “The helium is there; it’s highly valuable; and by extracting it, Tumbleweed can return premium netbacks to the producers in the region.”

The gathering and distribution infrastructure associated with the Ladder Creek system includes approximately 730 miles of pipeline, divided as follows:

190 miles (306 km) of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-regulated interstate pipeline,

    ■ 23 miles (37 km) of residue gas pipeline,

    ■ 15 miles (24 km) of pipeline to carry

        fuel gas back to producers,

    ■ 42 miles (68 km) of NGL pipeline,

    ■ 460 miles (740 km) of gas gathering pipeline, and

    ■ 10 compressor stations.

“The U.S. is the world’s largest helium producer. At the same time, the world supply of helium is suffering from a multiyear shortfall,” Johnson said.   

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