Tumbleweed Midstream LLC (Tumbleweed) has acquired the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System from DCP Midstream LP. Located in Cheyenne County, Colorado, USA, the plant serves natural gas producers operating in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, which includes the Morrow, Mississippian, Spergen, Chester, and Marmaton formations. The natural gas produced in the region has a helium content as high as 3%. The plant was built in 1997 by Union Pacific Resources (Union Pacific) to separate helium from the natural gas stream and liquefy it for transport to market. DCP Midstream acquired the Ladder Creek system from Union Pacific in 1999.
Current processing capacity at the Ladder Creek cryogenic processing plant is 40 MMcfd (1.1 x 106 m3/d), expandable to 50 MMcfd (1.4 x 106 m3/d). The plant has the capacity to extract and liquefy 1.5 MMcfd (42,475 m3/d) of helium, with extraction and liquefaction to purity levels of 99.999%, the company said. 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, USA, 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. “The US is the world’s largest helium producer. At the same time, the world supply of helium is suffering from a multiyear shortfall. This has boosted prices for natural gas with a high helium content and has begun to raise red flags in industries that depend on helium. The growth of Ladder Creek’s helium operations starts with delivering our current customers superior economics with the highest level of service. 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 (1174 km) of pipeline and 10 compressor stations.
Headquartered in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, Tumbleweed was established in 2019 to focus on the acquisition, operation and growth of the Ladder Creek Helium Plant and Gathering System. Tumbleweed is a privately held, independent natural gas gathering and processing company whose primary business is focused on the separation and production of liquefied helium, NGLs, and residue gas from the incoming gas stream as well as the purification and liquefaction of crude helium from third parties.