Pipe plans draw fire

RAVENNA – Saying they are “bullish on the production growth from the Marcellus and Utica shales,” a Philadelphia-based pipeline operator recently began pumping natural gas liquids through a pipeline headed west through parts of Portage and Mahoning counties, with plans for a second line shipping the liquids in the other direction.

The development of these and another pipeline to ship gasoline and diesel has raised the ire of some Portage County residents.

Mary Greer, an outspoken opponent of the plans and spokeswoman for the group Ohio Concerned Citizens, worries about shipping the liquid, which she described as “volatile,” across many wetlands and streams in Portage County.

“It’s high-compression gas, odorless, highly toxic and highly flammable,” Greer said this week.

Spokesman Jeff Shields of pipeline operator Sunoco Logistics acknowledged that natural gas liquids like ethane are flammable. He pointed out that it is similar to propane, another natural gas liquid that has been shipped by pipeline for the last 75 years.

Despite that, Greer and other opponents said they plan to express their worries about the pipelines during the public comment section of the Portage County commissioners meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said she expects a representative of Sunoco Logistics plans to attend and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been invited.

Chandler said commissioners did receive notification from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that a pipeline was being planned to cross at least one area of wetland in southern Portage County.

Shields noted a new Sunoco Logistics line being proposed would cross a portion of southwest Portage County but is expected to transport refined products, not natural gas liquids.

“Mainly this meeting is to educate us,” Chandler said. “We know we don’t have a lot of power. There are certain rules and regulations that they have to follow, we are sure of that, but who’s in charge of monitoring whether they follow these, we are just not sure.”

Sunoco Logistics in recent months began operating an ethane pipeline known as “Mariner West” carrying the natural gas liquid, or NGL, from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale westward through eastern Ohio to the Sarnia, Ontario, petrochemical market. The “Mariner West” ethane line crosses the southern portion of the county through towns including Deerfield and east through parts of Boardman and Canfield townships.

During a November conference call, company president and CEO Michael Hennigan said Mariner West was operating in startup mode and expected to ramp up to 50,000 barrels per day by the end of the first quarter 2014.

A third proposed pipeline, named “Mariner East 2” is expected to transport natural gas liquids from the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays, but will remain well south of the Mahoning Valley and not cross any part of Portage County. It will head east to the Delaware River. The company is in the process of accepting commitments for usage of the Mariner East 2.

Shields said Mariner East 2 is expected to transport natural gas liquids from processing facilities in the Marcellus and Utica Shale areas in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia to Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook Industrial Complex on the Delaware River, approximately 300 to 400 miles from the production region. The Mariner East 2 pipeline is expected to be operational in early 2016.

In his November conference call with investors, Hennigan said, “As you’re aware, propane is already exported from the Marcus Hook terminal today, as the northeast is long NGLs and will continue to grow longer NGLs as the Marcellus and Utica develop further. We believe that a Northeast NGL hub at Marcus Hook, which is capable of handling a broad array of NGL products and is located less than 300 miles from the Marcellus, will be a very attractive proposition for producers and local and overseas consumers alike.”