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Sunoco Readies Service on ME 2 with Workaround

Energy Transfer LP subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP has finally begun the commissioning process on Mariner East (ME) 2 in Pennsylvania, as the line is being filled with natural gas liquids (NGL) in some areas.

The project, which has been dogged by regulatory issues and construction delays, was initially slated to come online about two years ago. ET CFO Tom Long said last week, however, the company now expects part of the system to enter service by the end of the year, with commissioning activities on “segments” of ME 2 “already underway.”

Spokesperson Lisa Dillinger confirmed that line fill has started in some areas. The company, she added, is moving forward with a plan it disclosed over the summer to use a stretch of pipeline that formerly moved refined products. The repurposed 12-inch diameter pipeline would help bypass locations in Chester County, PA, where injunctions ordered by the state Public Utility Commission remain in effect preventing the company from utilizing the mainline at two sites.

In July, the company said it would connect the smaller repurposed line to the 20-inch diameter ME 2 at points near West Whiteland Township, where the injunctions remain in effect. That would allow Sunoco to use portions of ME 2 that are complete and unaffected by regulatory issues to move NGLs from the western part of the state to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia.

It’s unclear how using the repurposed line might affect capacity on the system, which on its own was designed to move 275,000 b/d. It became clear in July when the fix was announced that Sunoco needed to meet its obligations, as the regulatory issues and other related service interruptions on ME 1 were forcing producers to find costly workarounds.

“As we bring the various segments of the projects into service, they will continue to correspond with ramp-ups and capacity obligations,” Long said, also referring to ME 2X, a companion project being built next to ME 2. “And we will be able to fill all current and future capacity obligations.”

Long, speaking last week to financial analysts during the company's third quarter earnings call, added that in-service on ME 2X would be pushed back three months to 3Q2019.

The PUC in August partially lifted a broader construction suspension at other locations in West Whiteland Township, but the two injunctions remain. Construction was halted in May by an administrative law judge. The move came in response to a complaint from state Sen. Andrew Dinniman seeking the emergency order and questioning the safety of the entire system after sinkholes formed near it earlier this year.

The remaining injunctions won’t be lifted until affidavits are filed certifying the receipt of new permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection. PUC spokesman David Hixson said Tuesday that Sunoco has yet to make those filings. While the PUC also received a construction notice from Sunoco for work on the refined products line over the summer, the commission is not required to approve it.

ME 2 and 2X would run parallel for about 350 miles to move NGLs from processing facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Marcus Hook.

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