Natural Gas Liquids

New Warnings on Plastic’s Health Risks as Fracking Industry Promotes New 'Plastics Belt' Build-Out

Read time: 15 mins
Marine litter washed up on a beach

A new report traces the life cycle of plastic from the moment an oil and gas well is drilled to the time plastic trash breaks down in the environment, finding “distinct risks to human health” at every stage.

Virtually all plastic — 99 percent of it, according to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIELreport — comes from fossil fuels. And a growing slice comes from fracked oil and gas wells and the natural gas liquids (NGLs) they produce.

Energy Transfer Pipeline Projects on Hold in Pennsylvania After String of Violations

Read time: 9 mins
Mariner East 2 pipeline spill site near an apartment complex

Plans for a pipeline network to export petrochemical ingredients from fracked gas wells in Pennsylvania hit a major roadblock, as state environmental regulators announced Friday that they were suspending all permit reviews for pipeline builder Energy Transfer until further notice.

There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who has supported fracking in the state, said in a statement when the suspension was announced. “This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

Energy Transfer Uses Workaround to Open Mariner East 2 Pipeline Amid Hazard Worries, Criminal Investigation

Read time: 8 mins
Mariner East 2 pipeline opponents protest the pipeline project with signs

Energy Transfer has begun shipping natural gas liquids through one of the most troubled pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, sparking calls for additional investigations as residents say safety concerns remain unresolved.

Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are fossil fuels found in large volumes in “wet” shale gas wells. They include the highly flammable fuels propane and butane, plus ethane, which is used extensively in the petrochemicals and plastics industy.

A year ago today, Pennsylvania temporarily suspended permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline construction, citing the builder’s “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.

A Field Guide to the Petrochemical and Plastics Industry

Read time: 13 mins
Petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia

The shale gas industry has been trying to build demand for fossil fuels from its fracked oil and gas wells by promoting the construction of a new petrochemical corridor in America's Rust Belt and expanding the corridor on the Gulf Coast. To help demystify terms like “natural gas liquids” and “cracker plants,” DeSmog has begun building a guide to some of the equipment and terms used in the plastics and petrochemical industries.

This guide, which will expand over time, is intended to serve as an informal glossary of sorts and an introduction to what happens to fossil fuels that are transformed into chemicals, plastics, vinyl, Styrofoam and a variety of other materials.

Climate Emissions From Gulf Coast’s New Petrochemical, Oil and Gas Projects Same as 29 New Coal Power Plants

Read time: 5 mins
Petrochemical plant in the Houston Ship Canal

In the last six years, officials in Texas and Louisiana issued permits allowing 74 petrochemical, oil, and gas projects to pump as much climate-warming pollution into the atmosphere as running 29 coal-fired power plants around the clock, according to numbers released September 26 by the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Integrity Project.

And construction appears to be speeding up, with over 40 percent of those projects permitted between 2016 and mid-2018. The 31 most recent projects combined will add 50 million tons of greenhouse gases — equal to 11 new coal-fired power plants — to the world’s atmosphere in a year, the watchdog adds.

As Industry Pushes Billion-Dollar Fracked Petrochemical Projects, State Regulators Struggle To Keep Up

Read time: 12 mins
Shell's ethane cracker petrochemical plant under construction in Pennsylvania

Fueled by fracking in the region, petrochemical and plastics projects in the Ohio River Valley are attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment, but as plans for this build-out hit the drawing boards, signs already are emerging that state regulators are unprepared for this next wave of industrialization. And the implications of their inexperience could mean major threats to the region's health and environment.

One of the projects currently underway, an underground natural gas liquids (NLG) storage site — designed to support the construction of several huge petrochemical complexes — is undergoing review by state regulators who have little experience with NGL storage facilities of its size.

Pennsylvania Suspends Mariner East 2 Pipeline Construction, Citing Sunoco's 'Egregious and Willful' Violations

Read time: 5 mins

Pennsylvania today suspended permits for Sunoco Pipeline, LP's $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline project, after finding that the company committed “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.

The order directs Sunoco, a subsidiary of Dakota Access pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners, to stop Mariner East 2 construction activities across Pennsylvania. The 306-mile pipeline project would carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia to the Atlantic coast for export.

“Suspension of the permits described,” the order states, “is necessary to correct the egregious and willful violations described herein.”

Sunoco Ordered to Suspend Drilling on Mariner East 2 Pipeline After Spills, Damage

Read time: 4 mins
Mariner East 2 pipeline path

Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board today ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane, and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.

On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.

Science vs Spin: Dilbit Sinks in the Real World, But Not in Studies Funded by Oil Industry

Read time: 6 mins
EPA Kalamazoo River Cleanup

Once the oil started to sink, it made things a lot more difficult on our recovery.”

Those were the words of Greg Powell of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during his presentation on March 10th at the National Academy of Sciences conference on the Effects of Diluted Bitumen on the Environment. Powell was one of the people involved in the response and clean up of the Kalamazoo River tar sands dilbit spill in 2010 where an Enbridge pipeline cracked and spilled approximately one million gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.

‘Wild West’ Approach to Regulation in Bakken Shale Means Bomb Trains Continue to Roll

Read time: 4 mins
Wild west Bakken

Prepare yourself for a rare moment of honesty from the oil industry.

It happened on Sept. 23 at a hearing of the North Dakota Industrial Commission during a discussion on ways to make Bakken crude oil less flammable for transportation.

The flammable characteristics of our product are actually a big piece of why this product is so valuable. That is why we can make these very valuable products like gasoline and jet fuel,” said Tony Lucero of oil producer Enerplus.

So, there you have it: making Bakken crude safer to transport by rail via oil stabilization, which removes flammable natural gas liquids such as butane, means making it less valuable to the refineries.

This profit motive is at least part of the reason why the American Petroleum Institute has made it clear it will not accept mandatory oil stabilization as part of the new oil-by-rail regulations.

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