The last time I was in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania was aboard the SS MORMACSKY tanker serving as an engineer. I had recently graduated from Widener University School of Law; studied all summer for the bar exam and I needed to make some money while I awaited my license to practice law. So, I did what I knew how to do—I packed my sea bag with coveralls, work boots, flashlight and batteries, channel locks and a crescent wrench—and up the gangway I went. That was January of 2001.
I had to opportunity to visit Marcus Hook again 15 years later on February 19, 2016. The old Sun Docks are now part of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. The complex is bustling. I saw cutting edge technology and newest and most sophisticated tankships afloat. On this occasion, Sunoco Logistics and INEOS Evergas Green ships invited me to view their operations. I boarded the JS INEOS INTREPID, which is expected to load ethane destined for Rafnes, Norway. It would be the first shipboard export of ethane ever from the United States.
Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia have emerged as major natural gas liquids (NGLs) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) producers. These three states can move their products to Marcus Hook via pipeline. I’ll refer to both NGLs and LPGs as wet gas. Wet gases are ethane, propane, butane, isobutene and pentane. The end use products for wet gas include plastics used in laptop computers, detergent, home heating, small stoves, refrigeration, synthetic rubber, underarm deodorant and gasoline.
Marcus Hook Industrial Complex
I drove my car this time to the Borough of Marcus Hook, passing Connolly’s Pub and Clanks Pizza and then turned onto Green Street, parked my vehicle and entered the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. I am pleased to say it is a vibrant place once again.
The Marcus Hook refinery was shuttered in 2011 after over a century of operation. Around the same time, two European petrochemical plants owned by INEOS were on the ropes—one in Scotland and the other in Norway. These two plants relied heavily natural gas and liquids produced from the North Sea. North Sea production was in steep decline. Thousands of jobs were at stake on both sides of the Atlantic. Leaders stepped forward with a plan that involved shale gas.
In late 2012, INEOS signed a 15-year deal with Range Resources Appalachia to supply ethane from Sunoco’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. The ethane would be produced in western Pennsylvania and piped to Marcus Hook.
Today, massive new tanks are being constructed to hold ethane, propane or a mixture of NGLs. State of the art on-dock rail cars and terminal racks are in place. New dock spaces for tankships have been installed and pylons are being set for additional piers. Sunoco anticipates about 12 ships per month calling at its marine terminal. Sunoco’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex also supplies propane for Pennsylvania and many other mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. During peak demand, Marcus Hook trucks-out about 800 barrels of propane every 45 minutes for domestic use.
In all, Sunoco Logistics is in the midst of a $3 billion construction project. There are approximately 300 permanent jobs supporting the Marcus Hook complex. There is an additional 1,000 contractors shuffling in and out each day; and by this summer it is expected to increases to about 1,700 contractors per day.
I boarded the vessel JS INEOS INTREPID while it was berthed at Sunoco’s marine terminal. It is one in a series of eight Dragon-class ships specifically designed to carry liquids from Marcus Hook. Evergas is the ship operator.
In January 2013, Evergas signed 15-year charter agreements with INEOS to transport ethane from the Sunoco’s Marcus Hook Industrial Complex to Europe. Evergas first agreed to build four ships, and then the contact was extended to six, then again to eight—all purposely built to serve Marcus Hook.
Stenciled on the midsection of the hull are the words “Shale Gas for Progress.” On the aft end of the vessel are seven flags painted on the hull representing the international interests of the entire operation. The flags are Scotland (location of Ineos Grangemouth petrochemical plant), Norway (location of Ineos Rafnes facility), United States (location of Marcus Hook Industrial Complex and natural gas supply), Switzerland (Location of Ineos headquarters), China (location of shipyard), Denmark (location of Evergas headquarters) and the United Kingdom (birthplace of Ineos’ owner).
When I toured the vessel, what I found amazing was the size and scale of the equipment. The bridge is appears to be very large, in part, because the bridge wings are enclosed. It has the smallest engine room I have ever seen on a large self-propelled ship. The purifiers in the purifier room are small. The main engines and generators are small. The cargo control room is small.
The ship is outfitted with boil off gas compressors, cargo pumps, and an energy recovery system. It includes a purpose-built re-liquefaction plant for LPG and ethane.
Importantly, the Dragon-class ships are environmentally friendly. The engines have duel fuel capability and can run on LNG or ethane as a marine fuel. These capabilities improve efficiency and can significantly reduce emissions. The ballast water treatment system safeguards the marine environment. The vessels carry EP-class notation and a green passport; and comply with the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) regulations, as well as NOx and SOx Tier III standards.
The INTRPID bears a distinct dragon painted on its topside fuel tanks symbolizing its Chinese and Western heritage. The dragon chosen to sail and protect this ship is the King of Sun. It symbolizes power with the shades of red and purple representing the dazzling power of the sun. Interestingly, an urban legend is already beginning to emerge with respect to the dragons stenciled on these ships. Some say that the two streams shooting out of the mouth of the dragon resemble the number 52— as in 1952, the year Ineos’ Chairman and CEO Jim Ratcliffe was born. Anyway, that discussion can be hashed out in the years to come down the street at Clanks.
Finally, I would like to thank Sunoco Logistics’ Captain Mike Nesbitt, Tom Sitley, Brittany Carter and Evergas’ Mihir Navalkar for the time they took showing me around the facility and aboard the ship. Thank you.
On January 1, 2013, the United States Senate confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of William P. Doyle of York, Pennsylvania as a Commissioner of the Federal Maritime Commission. He was nominated to another term by President Obama on January 29, 2015, and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 23, 2015. Commissioner Doyle served over a decade as officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine as a marine engineer aboard numerous classes of vessels. Combined, Commissioner Doyle has over 20 years of experience in the transportation industry, including both the maritime and energy sectors. Throughout his career, he has held several senior executive positions in the industry. Doyle is a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.