What Happens to Marc./Utica Ethane Until Cracker Plant Launches?

rejected.jpgThe Shell ethane cracker plant “yes” announcement is still, a week later, reverberating across the northeast (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). However, it’s going to be five, loooong years before the plant is actually up and running and processing ethane. So what happens to all of the excess ethane in our region in the meantime? There are some (precious few) pipelines to carry it to markets where it can be cracked, including Canada and the Gulf Coast. Or perhaps pipelined to Philadelphia where it can be loaded on ships and exported to Europe. But those options only handle a relative thimbleful of the ethane we have. Most ethane is blended with methane and sent down the pipeline to be sold as “natural gas”–something called ethane rejection. Separate and sell? Or reject? It all depends on the economics and available markets. Here’s a closer look at what happens to Marcellus/Utica ethane for the next five years, until the Shell cracker goes online…

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