An open season for Project Mariner West, a proposed pipeline to deliver ethane from MarkWest Liberty Midstream & Resources LLC’s Houston, PA, processing and fractionation complex in the Marcellus Shale to Sarnia, ON, has received binding commitments that enable the project to proceed as designed with an initial capacity to transport approximately 50,000 b/d and the ability to expand to support higher volumes as needed, according to Sunoco Logistics Partners LP.

The project, which was announced by Sunoco Logistics and MarkWest Liberty in March (see Shale Daily, March 24), is under way and scheduled to begin operation by July 2013, according to Sunoco Logistics CEO Lynn Elsenhans.

“We believe our existing infrastructure and the ability to reach multiple market destinations provide a cost-efficient and flexible solution to transport additional Marcellus Shale ethane production,” Elsenhans said.

The successful completion of the open season was one of a trio of recent critical milestones achieved by the project, according to MarkWest Liberty. The other milestones were the commencement last week of the next phase of the Houston, PA, fractionation facility and the Denver-based company’s announcement of plans to develop up to three large de-ethanizers capable of producing more than 115,000 b/d of ethane at its Houston and Majorsville, WV, processing complexes. The first phase of de-ethanization would have capacity of approximately 75,000 b/d and would commence operation in mid-2013 to coincide with the start-up of Mariner West.

NOVA Chemicals Corp. said Tuesday it has concluded a transportation service agreement with Sunoco Pipeline LP, which will transport ethane to NOVA’s ethane cracker at Corunna, ON, and has also signed definitive agreements for long-term supplies of ethane from a Range Resources Corp. subsidiary and from Caiman Energy LLC (see Shale Daily, Sept. 7). Range’s contract with NOVA — its first for the sale of Marcellus ethane — became effective after the binding open season of the Mariner West pipeline project.

Mariner West is an expansion of Project Mariner, designed to transport ethane produced in the Marcellus Shale to U.S. Gulf Coast and international markets by mid-2013 (see Daily GPI, March 4; June 3, 2010). Mariner West will support the long-term development of more than 1.5 Bcf/d of liquids-rich Marcellus gas in southwest Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, according to MarkWest Liberty.

Sunoco Logistics and MarkWest Liberty are also planning a Mariner East pipeline to transport 50,000 b/d of Marcellus ethane to the Gulf Coast through a marine facility on the Atlantic seaboard by next year. MarkWest Liberty, a partnership of MarkWest Energy Partners LP and The Energy & Minerals Group, has said that by mid-2012 it expects to be operating 745 MMcf/d of cryogenic capacity to serve Marcellus Shale producers.