The Mariner East 1 (ME1) natural gas liquids pipeline that flows ethane and propane came back online Monday (see Mariner East 1 NGL Pipe Restarts Today After Shutdown Since Jan.). It had been out of service for more than three months because a sinkhole exposed a few feet of bare pipe near Philadelphia. Good thing ME1 is back, because yesterday the Pennsylvania Public Service Utility (PUC) announced an investigation into a potential new sinkhole near a section of pipeline used for the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Delaware County.
There’s not much information yet–just a notice from the PUC that its Pipeline Safety Division of the Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement is investigating “reports of a subsidence near several pipelines in southeastern Pennsylvania,” one pipeline of which is part of ME2. Subsidence is another word for sinkhole. The possible sinkhole is located in Middletown Township in Delaware County. Middletown is the location of at least one previous sinkhole related to ME2 drilling (see ME2 Drilling in Delaware Co. Creates Small Sinkhole, Antis Swarm).
The ME2 pipe in that area of Middletown is a “bypass” pipe–an old Sunoco pipeline being used on a temporary basis because ME2 construction hit snags (sinkholes) that caused the project to be delayed. ME2 has been up and running since Jan. 1 of this year (see Sunoco LP’s Mariner East 2 NGL Pipeline Now Online!). It’s a good thing too, because 20 days later ME1 was taken offline at the direction of the PUC (see All of Mariner East 1 NGL Pipe Shut Down Indefinitely by PA PUC).
Now we wonder if the situation will reverse. No, we’re not saying ME2 will get shut down. However, if there’s bare pipe showing, it’s a pretty safe bet it will get shut down.
Sunoco (i.e. Energy Transfer) patched together several pipelines in areas where ME2 work was not complete (see Independent Report Shows Temporary 12-Inch Pipe for ME2 is Safe). The new sinkhole (if it exists) is in an area with a temporary ME2 pipeline. As soon as ME2 work is done later this year, the temporary pipes will be turned off.
Here’s the notice issued by the PUC yesterday:
In response to reports of a subsidence near several pipelines in southeastern Pennsylvania, a safety investigation has been launched by the Pipeline Safety Division of the Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement (I&E) – the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).
Reported earlier today near Route 1, near Chester Creek Road in Middletown Township, Delaware County, the subsidence occurred along the right-of-way for Sunoco’s “GRE Pipeline” – a 12-inch steel pipeline used to transport highly volatile liquids (HVLs) and petroleum products. That section of pipeline is also known as the ME2 “Bypass” line, used as part of the Mariner East system.
No leaks or injuries were reported and Sunoco personnel have been working to stabilize and monitor the location.
Engineers from the Pipeline Safety Division have been on site gathering information for their investigation and monitoring the integrity of the pipelines in this area.
Reporting Pipeline Safety Incidents
The Pipeline Safety Division encourages residents and businesses located near pipelines to understand how to recognize and report unusual incidents involving those lines – including the sounds, smells and sights of possible leaks.
Pipeline operators are required to regularly provide safety and awareness information to property owners along their routes, along with emergency contact information. If you suspect a leak, call 9-1-1 or local emergency responders and the pipeline operator from a safe location.
About the Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement
As the independent investigation and enforcement bureau of the PUC, I&E enforces state and federal pipeline safety and motor carrier safety laws and regulations and represents the public interest in ratemaking and service matters before the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge. I&E has the authority to bring enforcement action, seek emergency orders from the Commission or take other steps to ensure public safety.*
*Pennsylvania Public Utility Service (Apr 24, 2019) – Pipeline Safety Investigation Underway Involving Subsidence Incident in Southeastern Pennsylvania
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