The Appalachian Basin has ample amounts of undeveloped ethane and no nearby place to sell it, but the numerous proposals to ship it to move it elsewhere remain challenged by the marketplace, several project sponsors told an audience in Pittsburgh on Oct. 21.

Following a recent open season, El Paso Midstream Group decided to slow its plan for a pipeline system to ship ethane to the Gulf Coast, while Enterprise Products Partners LP still expects a successful open season for a similar project, and two related projects to pipe ethane to Canada and ship it to the Gulf Coast and Europe remain on track.

“Supply’s critical for this,” Randy Nickerson, chief commercial officer of MarkWest Energy Partners LP, said at the Platts Fourth Annual Appalachian Gas conference.

MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC and Sunoco Logistics LP recently announced a successful open season on Project Mariner West to connect the Marcellus to Sarnia, ON, by pipeline and are planning Project Mariner East to move ethane across Pennsylvania where it would be carried by tanker to existing markets (see NGI, Sept. 12).

The competing projects are interdependent, Nickerson said. Because the total amount of ethane producers can technically recover from wet gas in the region could be three times as much as the “must recover” volumes required to meet blending requirements on major pipelines, producers and processors don’t know how much supply they will need to move.

That problem recently hit El Paso in the face. El Paso announced the Marcellus Ethane Pipeline System (MEPS) in late 2010, but after an open season this summer it pushed its late 2014 timeline for bringing the 90,000 b/d system online to 2015 or later (see NGI, May 9). “While we had very high interest, we did not reach sufficient commitments in the binding open season that justified keeping this accelerate development rate,” said Russ Mahan, vice president of business development for El Paso Midstream.

Although El Paso still believes its idea is “viable,” the company is focusing on its Utica Shale Rich Gas Header Project to repurpose a section of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. mainline through the wet gas window of Ohio Utica to handle ethane volumes. That would also allow ethane producers to eventually feed into MEPS, Mariner West or the Enterprise Products system to the Gulf Coast, if or when those projects come online.

Enterprise is holding an open season to move up to 125,000 b/d of ethane from the Marcellus to the Gulf Coast starting in early 2014 on a new pipeline to Missouri and an existing TE Products Pipeline to Louisiana. While it won’t know if it can move forward until the open season ends on Nov. 10, vice president of natural gas liquids Russ Kovin said Enterprise only announces projects after it gets verbal commitments for minimum capacity.

“So if everyone does what they say they’re going to do, this project will move forward,” he said.

Enterprise also expects to have news this year about its Ethane Header System, a 550-mile system of mostly existing pipe to connect petrochemical facilities from Corpus Christi, TX, to Norco, LA, by late 2013 (see NGI, Aug. 15).

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