Sunoco Settles Mariner East 1 Case with Pennsylvania PUC

(P&GJ) - Energy Transfer's Sunoco Pipeline subsidiary has reached a $200,000 settlement agreement with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) over an 840-gallon ethane and propane leak from Mariner East 1 pipeline in 2017.

Mariner East Pipeline (source: Sunoco Pipeline)

Attorneys for Sunoco and the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement jointly filed this week for approval of the settlement agreement, which was made without admission in recognition of "the significant and more immediate benefits of amicably resolving the disputed issue (without) time-consuming and expensive litigation."

Under terms of the deal, Sunoco Pipeline agreed to pay a civil penalty of $200,000 and retain an independent expert to conduct a Remaining Life Study.  That study will include a summary of Sunoco Pipeline's Integrity Management Plan and a remaining life evaluation of Mariner East 1 (ME1).

The Remaining Life Study will include:

  • MEl corrosion growth rate based on the most recent In-Line-Inspection run, sectionalized as appropriate
  • Supporting documentation to demonstrate the corrosion growth rate. This may include a graph estimating corrosion growth from installation of MEl to the present time
  • Retirement thickness calculations that consider: (1) pressure design thickness; and (2) minimum structural thickness
  • Remaining life calculations by: (1) segment; (2) age; (3) coating type; and (4) soil conditions
  • A schedule identifying portions of the pipeline to be replaced or remediated over the next five (5) years
  • A summary of the portions of MEl that were previously retired with an explanation of the characteristics of the pipeline sections that led to the replacements
  • A listing and description of threats specific to MEl, with a summary of how each threat and the associated risks are mitigated
  • A summary of the top ten (10) highest risks identified on MEl with an explanation as to how the risks are mitigated
  • An explanation of how anomalies, dents and ovalities are formed on the pipeline and addressed by mitigative measures
  • A summary of the leak history on MEl including a description of the size of each leak
  • A discussion of the history of MEl, including when cathodic protection was installed, when coating was applied, and the various measures performed by SPLP, including the implementation of new procedures, and
  • A discussion to illustrate how managing integrity lengthens pipeline life.

Sunoco Pipeline agreed to supplement the study by providing an annual summary report agreement of its continual process to maintain the integrity of Mariner East 1. PUC senior prosecutor Stephanie Weimer wrote that the remaining life study is an industry first and that this "extraordinary relief" by Sunoco was warranted by "public outcry."

The agreement, which followed three months of negotiations between the company and the PUC, does not require Sunoco Pipeline to immediately replace any pipe but requires that it initiate measures to preserve integrity or physically replace pipe when anomalies are detected.

"(Sunoco Pipeline) has made no concession or admission of fact or law and may dispute all issues of fact and law for all purposes in any other proceeding," the agreement states.

The 8-inch Mariner East 1 was installed in 1931 and has primarily been used over the years to deliver refined products from eastern to western Pennsylvania.  The system was reversed and extended 51 miles in 2014 to deliver natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica basins to processing and export facilities.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Agency (PHMSA) issued a notice of probable violations in February which cited the same corrosion-control deficiencies as the state's PUC.  In its notice, PHMSA instructed Sunoco Pipeline to conduct a cathodic protection survey and submit a written plan to address any shortcomings.

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