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ME 1 Still Offline With No End In Sight; Work on Ohio Tetco Explosion Continues Too

The Mariner East (ME) 1 pipeline remains offline weeks after it was shut down when a sinkhole opened and exposed it. Meanwhile, a portion of the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) system remains offline after an unrelated incident last month.

For ME 1, there is no clear timeline for a return to service, as work to fix the sinkhole is ongoing, and the state steps up pressure on Energy Transfer LP (ET) subsidiary Sunoco Pipeline LP to better address the problems that have plagued the pipeline and companion projects ME 2 and 2X.

ET said on Thursday that work to inject grout into the soil near the sinkhole could take up to two weeks. That would help restore the land in the area. The company added that the timeline would depend largely on weather and other factors.

The company has been working with state regulators to finish an investigation of the sinkhole, which formed on Lisa Drive in Chester County’s West Whiteland Township, forcing the company to shutdown the pipeline on Jan. 20. Sinkholes also formed in the same neighborhood early last year, at which time the pipeline was also temporarily shut down.

ET said the geophysical and integrity tests conducted since the latest sinkhole formed confirm that ME 1 is stable and safe to operate.

Work on the line in Chester County continued as the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced Friday that it would suspend reviews of water permits and other pending approvals for every ET project in the state, including ME 2 and 2X. The suspension came in response to the company’s alleged failure to comply with an order the state issued last year after one of the company’s pipelines exploded in Beaver County.

The suspension prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to again chastise the company. His administration noted that regulatory issues have daunted the ME projects in particular, leading to 80 violations and $13 million in penalties levied by the state.

Wolf called on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to force ET to provide the necessary information to all public safety entities along the route so they can better prepare “robust emergency preparedness and communication plans” in the event an incident occurs on ME. That demand has been made repeatedly by residents living along the route, particularly those in southeast Pennsylvania where many of the project’s problems have occurred.

“I have directed Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Agency to coordinate with county and local leadership to assist with review of emergency management plans and this engagement has already begun,” Wolf said.

The governor added that he also asked the PUC to have independent experts conduct a “remaining life study” of ME 1. That suggestion echoes one put forward by the PUC’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement in a complaint filed last year that raised concerns about corrosion controls along the line following the investigation of a small leak on the system in 2017.

The 70,000 b/d ME 1 entered service in the 1930s to move refined products, but was repurposed and began moving natural gas liquids about three years ago. The ME 2 projects, which are not fully in service, run parallel along roughly the same path as ME 1 for about 350 miles to move liquids from processing facilities in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia.

In unrelated developments on the other side of the basin, Enbridge Inc. said part of its Tetco system remains offline following a Jan. 21 explosion in southeast Ohio that took out some service.

Tetco’s Line 10, one of three 30-inch lines in the same right of way, was damaged in the blast, which occured south of the system’s Berne compressor in Noble County near Summerfield. The incident cut flows on that line by 1.4 Bcf/d. The other two pipes in the trench are Line 15 and Line 25.

Line 25 was returned to service late last month, but Enbridge spokesperson Andrea Grover said Line 15 remains offline as the company takes the necessary steps to bring it back on safely. Line 10 is also offline and isolated between the system’s Athens, OH, and Uniontown, PA, compressors. 

Tetco said in a Feb. 5 update on its electronic bulletin board that eastbound capacity through the Uniontown compressor station remains at 4.5 Bcf/d, while north-to-south flow through the Berne compress remains at 1.6 Bcf/d now that Line 25 is back in service.

“Repair and replacement work on Line 10 is ongoing, and as part of our ongoing investigation into the incident to ensure safety of our system, we are performing a comprehensive integrity assessment on additional segments of Line 10,” Grover said. 

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