Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy is adding about $100 million in transmission upgrades in West Virginia as part of a $250-million company-wide program to support natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region.

Mon Power, FirstEnergy’s utility unit in the state, expects 400 MW of load growth through 2019 from new gas facilities, said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for the Akron-based parent company.

“Some of the coal mines that took decades to become our largest customers have been eclipsed by plants planned by the natural gas industry,”  he said.

Projects include the just completed $52-million Waldo Run transmission substation near Sherwood, W.Va. The substation will support load growth at a new natural gas processing plant that separates natural gas into dry and liquid components, Meyers noted.

A $55-million 138-kV transmission line from Oak Mound to the new Waldo Run substation will support natural gas development in the Clarksburg area. It is expected to come on line in December.

“We are working quickly to keep pace to upgrade our system to provide our gas industry customers access to safe, reliable and affordable electric power,” Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia operations, said in a statement.

The utility planned to build a new high-voltage transmission line in Wetzel County adjacent to a midstream gas processing plant, but the facility needs the proposed site to expand its operations, according to Meyers. FirstEnergy is searching for another site for the substation and expects to file for project approval this year.

FirstEnergy is evaluating additional transmission upgrades as it receives new service requests from shale gas developers, Meyers said. “We’re having to scramble to keep up,” he added, noting the utility's need to be nimble to accommodate the quickly changing dynamics in the industry.

FirstEnergy is preparing for 1,100 MW of expected load growth in the Marcellus Shale region from 2015 through 2019 and plans to invest $250 million in transmission upgrades in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to accommodate the growth, according to Meyers.