Why Wait for a Cracker to be Built? Canadian Plant Cracking Now

Although both WV and PA are in a race to build the northeast’s first ethane cracker plant, such a plant will not be operational for at least another 4-5 years–if all goes well. The problem is, what do you do with all of the ethane being produced now in the Marcellus and Utica Shale? Ethane is a valuable commodity that can be sold for a lot more than regular methane (or “dry gas”)–unless there’s no way to get it to a cracker. Then ethane becomes a waste product and actually costs money. The three ways to deal with ethane in the northeast right now are: (1) blend it with methane and other hydrocarbons, (2) flare it, i.e. burn it off, or (3) ship it out of the northeast via pipeline to a cracker plant. Option #3 is, of course, the preferred option for drillers–and an option that is now, as of a few months ago, a reality.

Although ethane has been flowing through the Mariner West pipeline (owned and operated by Sunoco Logistics) to the Corunna cracker plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada for the past few months, it has only been fully operational for a short time. Last Thursday, officials at the Corunna plant held a ceremony to commemorate full operation of receiving and processing Marcellus and Utica Shale ethane at the plant…

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