Three controversial pipelines
The Mariner East project consists of three pipelines carrying highly volatile ethane, propane, and butane: the 8-inch Mariner East 1 line; the 20-inch Mariner East 2 line; and the 16-inch Mariner East 2x. The lines carry Marcellus Shale gas from western Pennsylvania to the company’s 800-acre terminal in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, where the bulk of the product is shipped to Scotland to make plastics.
The company now plans to convert part of the Mariner East 1 back to carrying refined products, such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and heating oil. The “Pennsylvania Access” line would connect Midwest refineries to central Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, and upstate New York.
Opposition to the Mariner East project has been particularly fierce in the densely packed suburbs of Philadelphia, where its foes say the pipes carrying highly volatile natural gas liquids pose a safety threat while not providing energy to Pennsylvania residents. And they say continuing to put fossil fuel infrastructure into service runs counter to global, national, and statewide goals on tackling climate change.
“This is one of the most reckless drillers in the nation,” said Muth. “No, the pipeline is not safe. It goes through neighborhoods, schools, nursing homes, libraries, places it should not be. And there is not a need for this pipeline in the commonwealth.”
Muth pointed to the explosion of Energy Transfer’s natural gas liquids Revolution pipeline in 2018 in rural Beaver County. After being in service only for a week, the pipeline ruptured during a landslide, engulfing a hillside in flames and forcing evacuations. The explosion released 3 million cubic feet of gas and sent flames 150 feet into the air. No one was injured in the blast, but it killed several pets, damaged vehicles, and destroyed six high-voltage electric transmission towers and an electrical line.
An Energy Transfer spokesperson has said the company operates its Mariner East pipelines safely.
“There are no safety concerns regarding the ongoing operations of our active pipelines in this area, which have safely operated for years,” said spokesperson Lisa Coleman.
“As we work to complete Mariner East 2 construction, we will continue with our robust geophysical testing program to ensure the safety of the community, the safety of our employees, and the safety of the environment,” Coleman said. “Additionally, our construction protocols in this area include the installation of steel casing that will help to permanently stabilize the ground around the pipelines.”
Coleman said the natural gas liquids transported through the Mariner East lines and exported at the Marcus Hook terminal in Delaware County are “critical to our supply chain as the building blocks used to manufacture the products we use daily.”
As part of the agreement that included the new permits, Energy Transfer agreed to dredge Marsh Creek Lake of the drilling mud and pay $4 million to the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Potential carbon capture
The company is also looking to get into the carbon capture business, including at the Marcus Hook terminal. On an earnings call in November, Energy Transfer executives discussed a feasibility study to capture carbon dioxide from flue gas, and provide it to beverage and food companies through their pipelines.
“We are also looking at other projects related to our assets that involve capturing CO2 from processing plants for use in enhanced oil recovery and sequestration,” said Coleman. “We continue to believe that our franchise will allow us to participate in a variety of projects involving carbon capture or other innovative uses as we continue to reduce our carbon footprint.”
The construction at Marsh Creek should be completed by mid-February, she said.
Read More: Energy Transfer set to finish Mariner East pipeline in 2022