Finding a home for Marcellus ethane

By Malini Hariharan

A few weeks back the blog had highlighted the problems related to the disposal of ethane at the Marcellus Shale in northeast US.

Shale gas producers in the region are in a fix as ethane needs to be removed to meet pipeline specifications for transporting gas. However, there is no infrastructure or market in that part of the country.

My colleague Sheena Martin reports that production companies with drilling leases in the Marcellus Shale have heard of at least five proposals for moving the excess ethane.

The frontrunners are looking at moving ethane to Canada and the US Gulf via pipeline, truck and ship.

The cheapest project being considered is the one proposed by Nova Chemical and Buckeye which involves construction of a natural gas liquids (NGL) pipeline to Sarnia, Canada. The pipeline could take 65m bbl/day of ethane and some butane as well.

Another company, El Paso, has looked at taking the ethane to Louisiana using an existing gas pipeline.

Pic source: El Paso

Then there is the proposed Marcellus Ethane Pipeline System (MEPS) which would move 60,000 bbl/day ethane from the shale to interconnect with third-party ethane pipelines. The project is planned for start up in 2013.

Mark West Liberty and Sunoco have also proposed using a new pipeline and ships to move the ethane to the US Gulf coast.

There are other proposals as well but what has not yet been proposed is a cracker on the east coast. But all the extra ethane could well result in at least some capacity expansions and debottleneckings.

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