Sunoco touts natural gas liquids pipeline in Lebanon

  • Marie Cusick
A Sunoco Logistics employee discusses the Mariner East 2 pipeline with residents in Lebanon.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Sunoco Logistics employee discusses the Mariner East 2 pipeline with residents in Lebanon.

Philadelphia-based Sunoco Logistics hosted a public forum in Lebanon Thursday night to discuss a proposed $2.5 billion pipeline that would carry natural gas liquids from Ohio to the Marcus Hook industrial complex in Philadelphia.

The 350-mile Mariner East 2 is a new pipeline that would traverse southern Pennsylvania. It would run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1– an existing line which Sunoco recently retrofitted.

Late last year Mariner 1 partially came online, and it’s already shipping propane across the state.

Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields says the entire project is designed to make use of the abundant natural gas liquids– ethane, propane, and butane– found in the so-called “wet gas” regions of the Marcellus Shale, including parts of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The Mariner East 2 pipeline will run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1, and bring natural gas liquids to the Marcus Hook industrial complex in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Sunoco Logistics

The Mariner East 2 pipeline will run parallel to its predecessor, the Mariner East 1, and bring natural gas liquids to the Marcus Hook industrial complex in Southeast Pennsylvania. Sunoco Logistics

“The primary market for ethane is export, to be used in the plastics industry,” says Shields. “Propane can be used as a heating fuel and in plastics. Butane can be blended directly into the gasoline stream and used to increase the local supply of gasoline.”

The natural gas liquids have helped breathe new life into Marcus Hook– one of the oldest refineries in the United States.

“Sun Oil really helped make the Philadelphia area an energy hub for the 20th century,” he says. “We think Sunoco Logistics, its descendant, can make Philadelphia an energy hub for the 21st century.”

Annville resident Ron Royer attended the open house to learn more about the project. He owns a wooded lot in Lebanon County, which already has the Mariner East 1 running through it. His home is about five miles away, and he isn’t bothered by another pipeline running through his woods.

“I’m not sure how petroleum products are to be transported if they can’t go through pipelines that are underground and safe,” says Royer. “A railroad car could blow up if it’s involved in a wreck.”

Others were more skeptical. Tom Casey drove an hour to attend Sunoco’s open house. He’s a resident of West Goshen, Chester County. He heads the Chester County Community Coalition– a group that’s fighting Sunoco’s efforts to circumvent local zoning to construct pumping stations along the Mariner East 1 route.

“The main concern we have is putting a facility like this in a residential community,” Casey says of the pumping station. “It doesn’t belong there. There’s plenty of other areas they could put it.”

Mariner 1 has about 15 pumping stations along its route. The facilities are needed to keep the liquids flowing. Mariner 2 will need approximately 5-7 pumping stations.

The state Public Utility Commission is currently weighing whether Sunoco will have to comply local zoning rules for the structures that surround the pumping stations. Shields says a decision is expected in the next several months.

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