Pipeline operator updates project

Posted February 28, 2014

Michael Bradwell
Observer Reporter

The company adding to an intrastate pipeline to carry natural gas products from Washington County to the Philadelphia area hopes to begin shipping through it later this year, a spokesman said Thursday.

Joe McGinn, senior manager for public affairs for Sunoco Logistics, said the Mariner East pipeline is adding about 50 miles of pipeline in parts of Washington and Westmoreland counties that will join Sunoco’s existing pipeline in Delmont, Westmoreland County. From there, the product will be transported to the Marcus Hook refinery just outside Philadelphia.

McGinn, whose remarks were made as part of Washington County’s economic update at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe, explained that Sunoco has contracts from companies including Range Resources and Consol Energy to move their “wet gas” production, which includes ethane, from the MarkWest fractionation plant in Chartiers Township to the refinery.

According to McGinn, the project is critical for getting the ethane to markets where it’s in demand.

“We need to get this stuff to market,” McGinn said to a luncheon audience that included representatives from Range and other natural gas production companies.

He explained that if the proposed Shell cracker plant is built in Beaver County, there will be a local market for ethane produced here, but without it, the ethane can be sold elsewhere.

A ruling is pending from Washington County Judge Katherine Emery on whether Sunoco is a public utility and can use that status to use eminent domain to gain the easements it needs to complete the Mariner East project.

McGinn said Sunoco’s Mariner West pipeline, which also originates at the MarkWest fractionation plant in Chartiers Township and transports ethane west and north to Sarnia in Ontario, Canada, began operating in December. In that section, ethane production from Range and other producers is being purchased in Canada by Nova Chemicals, McGinn said.

Sunoco is spending a total of $600 million for the east and west pipeline projects, but McGinn said the company is considering building a second eastbound pipeline, called “Mariner East 2,” that would originate in Ohio’s Utica Shale and move ethane from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery.

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