Take Me to the River - Another East Coast LPG Export Terminal Joins the Fray

Over the past 10 years, there’s been a 14-fold increase in U.S. LPG exports: from 132 Mb/d, on average, in 2010 to 1.85 MMb/d so far in 2020. That extraordinary growth in export volumes couldn’t have happened without the development of a lot of new, costly infrastructure — everything from gas processing plants, NGL pipelines, and fractionators to LPG storage capacity, marine terminals, and ocean-going gas carriers. And that build-out continues, not only along the Gulf Coast but on the shores of the Delaware River near Philadelphia. Energy Transfer has been working to expand the throughput of its Marcus Hook terminal on the Pennsylvania side of the river, and Delaware River Partners, an affiliate of Fortress Transportation & Infrastructure, will soon be transloading LPG from rail tank cars onto ships across the Delaware in New Jersey. Today, we discuss Delaware River Partners’ Gibbstown Logistics Center.

Growth in U.S. LPG production and exports has been a stand-out success story during the Shale Era. The U.S. flipped from being a net LPG importer to a net exporter back in 2012, and now supplies the fuel and petchem feedstock to more than 50 countries. The vast majority of those exports are sent out of four large marine terminals along the Gulf Coast (PADD 3): Enterprise Products Partners’ Enterprise Hydrocarbon Terminal and Targa Resources’ Galena Park Marine Terminal, both located along the Houston Ship Channel; Phillips 66’s Freeport LPG Export Terminal down the coast in Freeport, TX; and Energy Transfer’s export facility in Nederland, TX. There are also a couple of other, smaller terminals in Texas and Louisiana that also send out LPG, as well as Petrogas’s Ferndale, WA, LPG terminal in the Pacific Northwest (PADD 5).

And then there’s the East Coast (PADD 1), which has become an NGL export player thanks to massive production gains in the 2010s in the NGLs-rich Marcellus/Utica production region in western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, and eastern Ohio. As we said a few weeks ago in It Takes Two, Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex (yellow tank icon in Figure 1), is PADD 1’s leading export facility for both LPG and ethane. Located on the western side of the Delaware River just north of the Delaware/Pennsylvania line, Marcus Hook receives LPG and ethane from the nearby Marcellus/Utica production areas via Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipeline system (brick-red line), which has two NGL-product pipelines (capacities 70 Mb/d and 275 Mb/d) and will soon have a third (capacity 250 Mb/d). Marcus Hook has more than 5 MMbbl of NGL storage capacity onsite, including 2 MMbbl of pressurized underground storage (granite caverns in place for decades under the refinery that was once there), and 3.2 MMbbl of refrigerated above-ground storage. There is also a de-ethanizer at the terminal to separate ethane and propane when they are sent as a mix through the Mariner East pipeline system. The marine terminal has the capacity to send out about 275 Mb/d of LPG; that capacity will increase to about 325 Mb/d in the first quarter of 2021, when an expansion project now under way at Marcus Hook is completed. The other East Coast terminal that exports LPG — albeit only normal butane (not propane) and only occasionally — is NGL Energy Partners’ Chesapeake, VA, marine terminal. (RBN’s bi-weekly NGL Voyager report closely monitors NGL flows through all of these facilities.)

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