Sunoco Pipeline Build Stalled Again


Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Judge Elizabeth Barnes recently ordered the suspension of gas transportation through Sunoco’s Mariner East 1 pipeline, while also stopping any further construction on the Mariner East 2 pipelines, citing contaminated water wells, sinkholes and poor managerial decisions on the company’s part.

In response, Sunoco’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said that the decision was based on “extrajudicial claims,” rather than due process.

Pipeline History

Mariner East 2, set to move ethane, propane and other petroleum products from Ohio and West Virginia east to the Philadelphia region, is planned for completion later this year, according to Sunoco.

Mariner East 2 is being constructed of 350 miles of 16-inch pipe and 250 miles of 20-inch pipe, most rolled, milled and coated in the United States, according to Sunoco. The first Mariner East pipeline, 300 miles long, was completed in 2016 and conveys liquid propane and ethane to from the Marcellus shale drilling region of Western Pennsylvania east to Sunoco’s Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, refinery.

In January, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stopped construction of Mariner East 2 pipeline after a series of incidents in which drilling fluids were released into the environment over the course of seven months.

In March, sinkholes caused by the construction of the new pipelines caused the PUC to suspend operation of Mariner East 1. The pipeline was allowed to resume operation earlier this month, once the PUC was satisfied that the integrity of the structure wasn’t compromised.

Cessation Order

Judge Barnes’ order was issued in response to a petition filed by Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Pennsylvania.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Mariner East 2 pipeline is nearly done—only 20 more miles of its 350-mile trajectory are needed for completion. Mariner East 2X will reportedly follow the same route, and is expected to come online mid-2019.

In her decision, Barnes cited Sunoco’s record of construction and operational mishaps in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, including an incident in Texas two years ago, where the company used unqualified welders in the construction of a pipeline, which later failed.

The judge also charged that Sunoco failed to notice and report three leaks from the Mariner East 1 pipeline from within the past year, which were all located in “high-consequence” areas.

The company has disputed the validity and relevance of what Barnes used in her verdict, going on to emphasize that by allowing Mariner East 1 to restart earlier this month, the PUC found the pipeline to be safe.

“The public needs protection from sinkholes, water contamination, damage to public and private property, degradation of natural resources, physical injury and death,” the judge wrote. “It would be injurious to the public to not slow down this project.”

The judge also rejected Sunoco’s request that Dinniman be obligated to post $192 million in bonds for the losses during the shutdown if an injunction is granted. Sunoco also plans to file an appeal.


Tagged categories: Construction; Environmental Protection; Government; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines

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