PA PUC Asks Sunoco to Drill Holes, Pour Concrete to Firm Up ME1

For more than a year, Marcellus/Utica ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline safely, hauling the two natural gas liquids (NGLs) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. The primary shipper using ME1 has been Range Resources, although other companies like CNX Resources use it too. 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 in Chester County, 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. Construction work in the area on ME2 led to the sinkhole that exposed ME1. The PUC shut down ME1 until further notice, requiring Sunoco to conduct a study of the area and provide the PUC with evidence to reassure them that ME1 is OK and will not leak or explode. Sunoco conducted the study, provided its results, and told the PUC it’s time to restart ME1–but the PUC is dragging its feet (see Sunoco Says ME1 Ready to Restart, but PUC is Dragging its Feet). The new news is that the PUC recently told Sunoco that before ME1 can restart, the company must first drill 10 new holes in the area of the sinkholes and pour in concrete (“grout”) in an effort to ensure ME1 doesn’t move around and break open…

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