Despite having the apparent support of Congress, Sunoco's plan to transport ethane from the Marcellus Shale through the Philadelphia area is far from a sure bet.
Energy analysts say that the Mariner project, which would pipe ethane derived from shale gas to a Sunoco dock on the Delaware River and then by sea to the Gulf Coast, is an unlikely path for the commodity to find its way to market. Ethane is a valuable raw material for manufacturing plastics.
"There are other ethane projects that don't have as many hurdles, that don't require an act of Congress to get going," said Kristen Holmquist, an analyst with Bentek Energy L.L.C. in Colorado.
Analysts say the biggest obstacle facing the Mariner plan is the lack of product. Two other pipeline projects moving forward appear to have captured much of the expected Marcellus ethane production through 2017.
"There's not enough ethane produced to fill all these projects," Holmquist said.
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