The impact of increased production of natural gas in Pennsylvania can be seen in the reshaping of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, as thousands of workers have begun to revamp the former Sunoco oil refinery on the banks of the Delaware River.
The facility, formerly the Marcus Hook Refinery, was built in 1902 on an 82-acre plot purchased by Joseph Newton Pew’s Sun Oil Co. Initially dedicated exclusively to the processing of light sweet crude oil found in Texas, it became highly advanced in the field of petroleum production. In 1937, the first catalytic cracker went into operation, enabling the facility to process 15,000 barrels of petroleum daily.
The process of catalytic cracking allowed for the conversion of petroleum crude oils to gasoline and other products by breaking molecules of hydrocarbon liquids at high and moderate temperatures.
During World War II, Sun Oil Co. employees at Marcus Hook processed more jet fuel for the Allies than any other refinery.
In 2004, the plant began producing the official fuel for NASCAR. The facility has a processing unit solely dedicated to manufacturing the Sunoco Green E15 fuel used by the NASCAR vehicles. Today, Sunoco is the official fuel not just for NASCAR but for INDYCAR, the National Hot Rod Association, and more than 50 other racing sanctions.
The refinery was idled in 2011 and was acquired in 2012 by Sunoco Logistics, which recognized its value in the shale gas era. Sunoco Logistics merged with Energy Transfer in April 2017, and the site is owned by Energy Transfer subsidiary Sunoco Partners Marketing and Terminals.
Now, Energy Transfer believes the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex can become the premier hub for natural gas liquids (NGLs) on the East Coast, made possible by the Mariner East 1 and Mariner East 2 and 2X pipelines safely delivering the energy that drives our nation and fuels our everyday lives.
As part of the Mariner East project, the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex will revitalize the former refinery into a world-class NGL hub. To achieve this, Energy Transfer has built new processing units, including an ethane/propane splitter and ethane and propane chilling and refrigerated storage. Going back to 2013, it has built six tanks storing approximately three million barrels of propane, ethane, and butane to support its Mariner East 1, Mariner East 2, and 2X pipeline systems, in addition to existing storage capacity of two million barrels in underground caverns.
Energy Transfer has also built a fractionator at MHIC to process NGLs that it will transport along Mariner East 2 and 2X from western Pennsylvania.
Improvements at the facility have required nearly nine million man-hours, involving more than 5,000 individual workers. Energy Transfer received the Zero Injury Safety Award in conjunction with Nooter Construction for construction and operations at MHIC.
The facility began receiving propane in January 2015, and it ships approximately 70,000 barrels a day of propane and ethane for distribution to local, regional, and international markets. The facility commissioned a first-of-its-kind ethane truckloading rack to complement its existing propane terminal that supplies propane for local and regional delivery.
Seasonally dependent, approximately 200 trucks per day pick up propane for delivery to markets in and around Pennsylvania.
The increased operations at MHIC with the completion of the Mariner East pipeline system will pay the state $1.2 million to $1.4 million in taxes each year and generate additional economic activity throughout the commonwealth. There are other industries benefiting from the revitalization at MHIC, including maritime-related jobs such as ship agents, cargo surveyors, tug assists, ship chandlers, and launch companies.