Pennsylvania

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Marcus Hook Refinery to Process Marcellus Shale Gas

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Marcus Hook refinery in Delaware County sits idle. Plans are in the works to breathe new life into the plant by tapping Marcellus Shale gas.

Last week Gov. Tom Corbett demurred on answering questions about the fate of Sunoco’s Marcus Hook plant in Delaware County. “I wouldn’t want to scoop myself,” he told reporters. But now we know that plans are in the works to revive the shuttered facility with the flow of Marcellus Shale natural gas from the western part of the state. The more profitable wet gas, or propane and ethane, will be sent via pipeline to the refinery for processing and then shipped to both domestic and foreign markets. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

State officials hailed the project – which Sunoco calls Mariner East – as a big boost for Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale industry by connecting the areas producing natural gas in western Pennsylvania to markets linked to Philadelphia.

“I have long held that the Marcellus Shale is an important resource that over time would benefit the entire commonwealth,” Gov. Corbett said in a statement.

The pipeline project is the latest industrial venture built on confidence that the Marcellus Shale, where full-scale production began barely four years ago, represents a long-term, reliable energy supply.

The Marcus Hook crude oil refinery shut down in December, laying off about 400 peo­ple with full-time union jobs. Hun­dreds of pri­vate con­trac­tors also lost work. High crude oil prices over­seas have fueled refin­ery closures. Sunoco’s Philadelphia refinery was purchased by the Carlyle Group and is now Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Delta Airlines bought the idled ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer. But the Marcus Hook plant remained dark. In July, Delaware County officials released a report by IHS recommending the re-tooling of the plant to process natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region.

It’s unclear how many permanent jobs the project will bring to southeastern Pennsylvania. But the Inquirer reports on Sunoco’s optimism.

Mariner East is expected to be transporting propane by the second half of 2014 and delivering both propane and ethane in the first half of 2015. Construction will employ about 450 people.

Sunoco Logistics is investing $600 million in the two Mariner projects, said Thomas P. Golembeski, the company’s spokesman.

Industry officials suggest the Mariner East project may be only the beginning. Sunoco Logistics said that based on the “significant interest” it received from producers and industrial customers of liquids, it is already evaluating a second “open season” to expand the pipeline’s capacity.

State officials and industry representatives are eager to bring the economic rewards of shale gas development east, where residents remain skeptical due to concerns over environmental impacts of drilling. At the recent Shale Insight Conference in Philadelphia, several sessions focused on improving the reputation of the industry. An address by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter cautioned the drillers that more work needed to be done to gain his trust.

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