After roughly two years of delays, Energy Transfer LP (ET) said partial service began last Saturday on the Mariner East (ME) 2 pipeline.
Natural gas liquids (NGL) are finally flowing on a hybrid version of the system utilizing 16- and 20-inch diameter greenfield portions of the project, and a short stretch of repurposed 12-inch diameter pipeline that once moved refined products. ET affiliate Sunoco Pipeline LP was forced to cobble together the workaround to bypass two locations in Chester County, PA, where injunctions ordered by the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) on the greenfield mainline remain in effect preventing the company from completing construction at those points.
The repurposed line was connected to the greenfield portion of the system that is complete and unaffected by regulatory issues to move liquids from Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia. It’s unclear how using the repurposed line might affect capacity in the system, which was designed to move 275,000 b/d.
“We have not provided that level of detail at this time,” said ET spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger when asked about the workaround’s capacity. “We will provide more information as the pipeline continues to ramp up.”
The project, which has been dogged by regulatory issues and construction delays, was initially slated to come online in 2016.
The PUC last August partially lifted a broader construction suspension at other locations in West Whiteland Township, but commission spokesman Nils Hagen-Frederiksen said Wednesday that injunctions at two sites there remain in effect. Construction was halted last May by an administrative law judge. The move came in response to a complaint from state Sen. Andrew Dinniman seeking an emergency order to stop work and questioning the safety of the entire system after sinkholes formed near it early last year.
The remaining injunctions won’t be lifted until affidavits are filed certifying the receipt of new permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. There have been no recent filings in that case, Hagen-Frederiksen confirmed Wednesday.
It’s also unclear when the Dinniman complaint might be resolved, as Sunoco has filed an appeal in the Commonwealth Court challenging the senator’s legal standing to pursue his complaint against the pipeline project. Dinniman represents residents in Chester County, where some living close to the ME 2 right-of-way have staunchly opposed the project, and where the district attorney recently announced a criminal investigation into all of the ME pipelines.
ME 2 and 2X run parallel for about 350 miles to move NGLs from processing facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Marcus Hook. ME 2X, which is designed to move 250,000 b/d, is expected to come online later this year. ME 1, which follows a similar path, entered full service in 2016 to move 70,000 b/d from one side of the state to the other.