Dragonpipe Diary

Mariner East 2 and me

The Dragonpipe, the dragon ships, and this blog

As I write this (July 2017), a pipeline is under construction through a heavily-populated area of the Philadelphia suburbs. I can see the work underway on my daily commute.

I have come to realize that this pipeline (its official name is “Mariner East 2”, but I call it “the Dragonpipe”) is extremely dangerous and should never have been permitted to be built in this location. One of these days, if it gets built, it is likely to become a fire-breathing monster—hence the name.

But there is another reason for calling it the Dragonpipe.

Dragon ships. In 2013, the Danish firm Evergas ordered four ships from a Chinese shipyard, suitable for transporting liquefied ethane, propane, and butane (which are fracking byproducts). It later added another four, bringing the total to eight ships. All eight were built for charter to the European petrochemical company INEOS. These were the first ships ever designed specifically for transportation of these products.

The ships were part of a scheme put together by Sunoco Logistics (now merged with Energy Transfer Partners) to sell unwanted volatile gases from Pennsylvania fracked-gas wells to INEOS.

The ships were labeled “dragon class ships”. The name was apparently chosen to reflect “their Chinese and Western heritage…reflecting a strong, vigorous and steadfast future ahead.” (http://www.hoppegroup.be/news/32/) But the name also echoes the extremely explosive nature of their liquefied gas cargo.

I knew nothing about the ships (and had only hazy recollections about the gases involved from my college science courses) but I was certainly aware of fracking and the controversy it was causing in western and northern Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania fracked gas for Europe, passing through my neighborhood. As it turned out, the dragon ships and the fracking gases would eventually have a powerful impact on the area of suburban Philadelphia where I live. The liquefied gas cargo, destined for the ships and derived from Pennsylvania’s fracking industry, had to pass through suburban neighborhoods within a few miles of my house in order to reach the port facilities at Marcus Hook, PA, that Sunoco owned.

As I learned more about the project, I was appalled by the lack of regulatory oversight and the senseless risks involved. If a leak occurred in the wrong spot at the wrong time, dozens of people could be instantly killed in a huge fireball. Hundreds more could be burned or injured by flying debris. Dozens of homes could be destroyed. How could this be allowed?

I felt called to do what I could to stop the pipeline. And that is why I am writing this blog.