ME1 Pipeline Shutdown in M-U Causing Propane Prices in TX to Drop

Propane is one of the NGLs (natural gas liquids) that come out of the ground along with natural gas and oil–especially in “wet gas” areas like southwestern PA, eastern OH, and the northern panhandle area of WV. Ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline for more than year–hauling propane (and ethane) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. At Marcus Hook, the propane is loaded onto ships and sent around the world. The world is an important market for our propane. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. ME2 will also haul ethane and propane to Marcus Hook, greatly expanding capacity. As part of their construction work in Chester County, several sinkholes developed leading to the shutdown of ME1. You might think if the supply of propane suddenly stops, prices would go up. But that’s not what happened. Because the propane ME1 was hauling to Marcus Hook was exported, that supply is now staying here at home. The effect has been to drive DOWN the cost of propane–in Texas!…

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