FirstEnergy is investing nearly $35m in new electric transmission projects to support the Marcellus Shale gas industry in western Pennsylvania.

The new transmission facilities also will help enhance service reliability for West Penn Power customers.

The projects include upgrading an existing transmission line as well as building or expanding two electric substations to accommodate expanding natural gas processing plants and compressor stations in western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas fields.

New gas facilities in the area account for about 370 megawatts (MW) of projected load growth, or the equivalent of more than 180,000 new homes in FirstEnergy’s western Pennsylvania utility territory.

"Our investment in new transmission facilities directly supports the fast-growing Marcellus Shale industry," said Carl Bridenbaugh, vice president, Transmission at FirstEnergy.

"This industry continues to generate jobs and economic prosperity across western Pennsylvania, and we are working quickly to upgrade our system to continue providing our customers access to safe, reliable and affordable electric power."

PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator, has directed FirstEnergy to build these projects to maintain electric reliability in the region.

The projects include a $31 million substation in Washington County to support a new midstream gas processing facility near Burgettstown, Pa., that separates natural gas into dry and liquid components. The refinement and separation processes require large amounts of electricity.

The new substation also will reinforce the regional transmission system which is expected to benefit more than 40,000 West Penn Power customers in Washington and Allegheny counties. The new substation is scheduled to be completed and operational in 2016.

FirstEnergy also plans to install new equipment to increase and maintain voltage levels in an existing transmission substation near Houston, Pa.

The substation improvements will support operations at a local gas processing plant. The $1 million upgrade, expected to be completed and operational in 2015, also will reinforce the regional transmission system and is expected to benefit more than 23,000 customers in Washington County.

The company also will upgrade a nine-mile, 138-kilovolt transmission line connecting a high-voltage substation near Weirton, W. Va., to a high-voltage substation near Burgettstown, Pa.

The $2.3 million project involves replacing several existing wood pole structures with taller structures, or modifying those existing structures to increase their height. This will increase line clearances and allow the line to carry more electricity to support area gas compressor stations and enhance service reliability for nearly 12,000 customers in Washington County.

This work is part of a $250 million investment in regulated transmission projects in 2015 across FirstEnergy. These projects will support approximately 1,100 megawatts of expected electric load growth through 2019. FirstEnergy is currently evaluating additional transmission upgrades as new service requests from shale gas developers continue throughout the region.