Come listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed.
And then one day he was shooting for some food,
and up from the ground came a bubbling crude.
Us old folks recognize the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies TV show from yesteryear. Should we look to Meek Mill to come up with the theme song for the Pennsylvania Hillbillies Mini-Series playing itself out right before our eyes?
There’s a lot of moving parts to the natural gas boom in Pennsylvania and its effects on our local economy and well being. This post will try to break it down for you so even a 5th grader can understand the dynamics.
What is Marcellus Shale?
Shale is rock. A group of rocks in Pennsylvania is named after Marcellus. Trapped under the rock is natural gas. A relatively new technique called fracking uses a lot of water to drill through the rock and get the natural gas. The water has to be recovered and cleaned before reusing or sending to a stream or river. Some of the stuff removed from the dirty water is valuable. That valuable stuff will be sent down a pipeline to Marcus Hook.
How does natural gas boost the economy?
Marcellus shale represents the second-largest natural gas field in the world and underlays two-thirds of Pennsylvania. Paraphrasing Gov. Tom Wolf,
Pennsylvania has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop and implement a strategy that will cultivate a manufacturing renaissance and transform our economy across the commonwealth with the opportunity to build our economy from within, using Pennsylvania’s own resources, infrastructure and ingenuity.
The priorities are to maximize economic benefits from drilled gas, including
…attracting infrastructure investments and manufacturers, as well as retaining and growing those already in the state; developing pad-ready sites; streamlining the development timeline; growing the supply chain and training a workforce with the right skill sets for future high-paying jobs.
What role does Sun Logistics in Marcus Hook play?
Forty percent of the natural gas produced is rich in natural gas liquid assets, with more than 70 percent in propane and ethane…. Both are used in basic petrochemical production and plastics manufacturing.
Although they’re drilling for natural gas up in the mountains (the stuff they keep), they end up with a lot of propane, ethane, and butane (the stuff they won’t keep). Those gases will be stuffed in a pipeline and sent to Sun Logistics in Marcus Hook. Once Sun gets this mix out the pipeline, they’ll separate the three compounds, clean it up, store it, ship it, and sell it.
What’s this pipeline fuss all about?
There isn’t a 350-mile pipe just sitting around waiting to be used for this purpose. A lot of legal stuff had to happen to connect and lay the underground pipe across the state.
About a dozen miles of pipe will come through our county and some communities are more upset than others.
Approximately 11.4 miles of the nearly 350-mile system will be installed in Delaware County across private and public property in Thornbury, Edgmont, the township, Aston and Chester Township, merging with the Mariner 1 pipeline in Upper Chichester. The product will then continue to the facility, where it will be processed and stored for sale.
There is some concern having a new underground pipe transporting 700,000 barrels of explosive gases under high pressure right next to homes, schools, and businesses all day and night.
Why are the locals protesting?
This seems to be a case of the ‘cart before the horse.’ You’d think all the okays to build a pipeline would occur before spending millions at the receiving facility (Sun Logisitics), but that surely didn’t happen. Sun Logisitics have worked since 2013 to get ready for these gases from the mountains, even while locals were duking it out in court.
The death nail came when…
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court delivered a 5-2 opinion affirming a lower court’s ruling that a Sunoco subsidiary is a public utility and that planned pipelines to transport Marcellus Shale crude represent a public utility service.
As a public utility, the business people received the right to take anyone’s land who didn’t agree to sell it for the new pipeline.
The distinction is important to landowners across Pennsylvania who have filed suits to halt the Mariner East project under eminent domain rules. The PUC has already determined the project is a public utility, which grants Sunoco Pipeline the ability to acquire private property or easements under eminent domain. Sunoco said in a statement that Thursday’s opinion was decisive in that regard.
But, in today’s paper we read a recent study suggests…
…these products are not a utility for public benefit, but rather for export and plastics manufacturing.
“The Mariner East 2 pipeline project, promoted by elected officials and business leaders, asks the public to assume extreme and unnecessary risk for a private for-profit export venture…independent hazards study forewarns of unacceptable consequences in the event of a Mariner East leak and our leaders will be held accountable.”
In other words, the locals got overruled by big business and will have to prepare themselves for any catastrophe if anything goes wrong.
Will Chester get a piece of that $3 billion?
I haven’t heard any talk about the new energy industry buildup coming to Chester. Those greedy Marcus Hook neighbors seem to be keeping it all to themselves. Since we share a State Rep, you think he’ll be willing to trade some marijuana farming for a little propane processing?
Our best bet is to hope to land a few jobs in the ‘Hook. They are regularly advertising for these positions and the local schools are ready to prepare you.