MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) – A Texas company is planning to spend $350 million on pipelines and a processing plant for natural gas pumped from the Marcellus shale in West Virginia.

Dallas-based Caiman Energy has already spent $150 million in the state and plans to spend $200 million more in the coming 18 months, the Intelligencer newspaper reported. All the money is going into Wetzel and Marshall counties.

Shale deep beneath the two counties is some of the richest in the Marcellus formation, Caiman Chief Executive Jack Lafield said. The Marcellus lies under portions of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York

“The potential for this region of the Marcellus Shale is huge,” Lafield said.

Caiman, though, isn’t involved in the drilling end of the business. Instead, the privately held company gathers gas from wells, removes liquids and pipes it to the Northeast.

So far, Caiman has finished 40 miles of gas gathering pipeline and is building 70 more.

Caiman also is building two facilities for processing gas. One will separate gas from liquids by chilling it to minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit and is expected to be complete in December. The second is a processing plant between Moundsville and Cameron that will make propane and butane, among other things from natural gas liquids. That plant isn’t due to be running until 2012, when it will be able to handle up to 12,000 barrels of material a day.

Combined, the plants are expected to employ more than 20 people.

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