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Why the Mariner East 2 Pipeline Is Essential to Southeast PA

CELDF - report on Mora countyTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


All the hullabaloo over construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline (that follows the route of an existing pipeline) obscures the fact Southeast PA needs it.

Our good friend and frequent source, Jim Willis, over at Marcellus Drilling News, provides the sort of inside information you’ll never get from mainstream media or the special-interest shills at StateImpactPA when they report on Mariner East 2. Neither has much interest in reporting on anything but construction issues and hyping them to the max. Meanwhile, Jim has recently published two great articles on the forgotten story of why the Mariner East 2 is so essential to the Southeast PA folks who might seem opposed to it from all the news coverage.

The first article was actually a guest post on MDN from Garland L. Thompson, who lives in Philly and has written for the Career Communications Group of publications, including US Black Engineer & Information Technology, Hispanic Engineer & IT and their sibling publications Woman of Color and Science Spectrum, for many years.

Mariner East 2

Garland L. Thompson

Here are some key excerpts from Garland’s excellent article:

Recall that Braskem America, whose Trainer, PA, chemical plant uses propylene feedstock to make products for thermoplastic molding, anti-freeze and other uses, first made and then scrapped plans to spend $1 billion building a new de-hydrogenator next door at Marcus Hook, and chose instead to take its billion-dollar investment plan to Houston. Recall also that Sunoco, the builders of Mariner East pipelines and developer of the Marcus Hook Industrial Center, had held out hopes that another chemical firm might want to build a propylene feedstock-maker on the Industrial Center’s grounds instead…

Now look again at Sunoco’s plan to bring megatons of propane to Marcus Hook, where underground caverns already exist to hold industrial quantities of the natural gas liquids – ethane, propane and butane – that its pipelines, Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2 and 2x, are designed to bring to the Delaware Valley.

According to the Team Pennsylvania Foundation’s well-researched report, 21 percent of the nation’s plastics makers are located in the Greater Philadelphia region, with almost all of the Commonwealth’s petrochemical feedstock users located within an hour’s truck-haul drive from the city. Looking across the Delaware to New Jersey, it’s clear that plants as far north as BASF’s Linden facility might profitably be able to use petrochemical output from Delaware Valley “crackers” and propane de-hydrogenators. And looking south across the Delaware State Line, agricultural products makers such as the DuPont works now being sold to FMC and the plastic packaging maker now moving into the Wilmington area could also make profitable use of locally produced petrochemical feedstock as well…

That all depends on Sunoco’s completing the Mariner East pipeline system. Shell Chemical’s decision to locate its ethane cracker in Allegheny County, near the Ohio Valley shale wells, makes entirely good sense, from this vantage.

But just as well, it also makes eminent good sense for industrial leaders in Southeast Pennsylvania, who’ve been meeting regularly at Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce “Energy Hub” breakfasts and parleys such as its Nov. 28, 2017 “Mobilizing the Region” confab to explore “Transportation Strategies to Improve Greater Philadelphia Connectivity,” to recognize the advantages Mariner East brings to this region. Time for them to get on the stick and make the business case for a fair regional share of the petrochemical industry growth possibilities envisaged in the Team Pennsylvania Foundation report’s projections.

From this vantage, that more profitable, better future for Southeast Pennsylvanians and indeed, people and businesses all over the Delaware Valley, is there to be had. If we in this contentious, urbanized region can get our act together to move forward and grasp it.

That’s pretty compelling stuff, isn’t it? If Philly wants a future, it needs what Mariner East 2 will deliver and deliver much more safely than rail or truck.

But, there’s more. There’s the favorable impact the Mariner East 2 should have on propane prices. Here are excerpts from Jim’s second article, entitled “Propane Prices in the Northeast & ME2 Pipeline,” which ran a few days ago:

Today, we bring you another article about why Mariner East 2 (ME2) is so vital to the Philly area: the cost of propane.

One of the primary NGLs that will flow through the ME2 is propane, used in a variety of applications, but particularly used in places where there are not natural gas pipelines to deliver gas to homes (like the various suburbs around Philly, the ones opposing ME2).

Propane prices are going up because (a) much of the propane produced by Marcellus/Utica drillers goes by railcars to Kansas, where it catches a ride on a pipeline to the Gulf Coast, and (b) the propane that does come to the Philly area also comes via rail cars, at a much higher price than if it were shipped via pipeline.

Add to that other countries want our propane and are bidding the price up and you have a prescription for spiking propane prices around Philly…

Here are insights on the economics of propane from the Butane-Propane News on why Philadelphia desperately needs the Mariner East 2 pipeline, without delay:

“By now, you’ve probably heard about Mariner East 2 (ME2). Since the pipeline is in our backyard, it’s one of those things we feel we should understand, even if we’re a little confused. So let’s walk this through. To begin, it was just announced that operation of the pipeline has been delayed until Spring 2018, from an original start date of November. This isn’t a surprise to anyone, least of all anyone involved in shipping NGLs to Marcus Hook, Pa. for the export market.”

“The capacity of the second Mariner pipeline is approximately 11.5 million gallons per day of propane, butane, and ethane. Much of the propane supply that was scheduled to be shipped on ME2 and then exported from the East Coast now needs to find a way onto ships along the Gulf Coast. To do that, 100, plus or minus, railcars at a time called unit trains are sent from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of West Virginia, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania to Conway, Kan. The supply is then piped to the Gulf Coast for waterborne exports.”

“Not all of this new propane supply earmarked for Marcus Hook is going to the Far East via Kansas. Much of it is still going directly to Marcus Hook, but by rail instead of pipeline. If that propane supply is needed here in the Northeast this winter, meaning we’ll pay more than the international market, it will stay here.”

As these observations once again demonstrate, Philadelphians and other Southeast PA residents have everything to gain from the Mariner East 2. Let’s get it back on track ASAP and not let the William Penn Foundation gang of malcontents and radicals destroy what could be.

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2 thoughts on “Why the Mariner East 2 Pipeline Is Essential to Southeast PA

  1. The fossil fuel opponents do not care how much pain they inflict upon the common people or how much their actions contribute detrimentally to the environment. It makes no economic or environmental or safety sense whatsoever to have to ship NGL via rail cars. Pipelines are by far the safest and most environmentally friendly method of transporting NGL. Their goal is to entirely shut down the fossil fuel industry, no matter the economic impact upon those less fortunate than the wealthy funders and promoters of such action.

  2. Pingback: Tom Shepstone: Why The Mariner East 2 Pipeline Is Essential to Southeast PA - PA Alliance for Energy

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