ETP hopes Pennsylvania will allow Mariner East restart this week

(Reuters) - Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) said on Monday it filed with Pennsylvania utility regulators on Friday to restart its Sunoco Mariner East 1 natural gas liquids pipeline and hopes the line will return to service this week.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission suspended operations on the Mariner East 1 pipeline on March 7 after sinkholes were discovered near the project.

“Our integrity testing for (Mariner East 1) is complete and has demonstrated that the line has been and will continue to be safely operated, as we have previously stated,” Lisa Dillinger, a spokeswoman for ETP, said in an email.

The shutdown forced shippers, including U.S. gas producers Range Resources Corp and Antero Resources Corp, to find another route for their liquids and is likely causing more ethane to be injected into the region’s natural gas pipelines, according to analysts.

One other route for the liquids is Enterprise Products Partners LP’s ATEX pipeline, which delivers liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to the Mont Belvieu storage facility in Texas, according to analysts.

Mariner East 1 can transport up to 70,000 bpd of propane and ethane from the Marcellus and Utica basins in western Pennsylvania to customers in the state and elsewhere, including ETP’s Marcus Hook industrial complex near Philadelphia.

Separately, ETP is building the $2.5 billion Mariner East 2 pipeline, which will boost total capacity of the Mariner East project to 345,000 bpd and open the pipe to suppliers in Ohio and West Virginia.

Since May 2017, Mariner East 2 has received 51 notices of violation from Pennsylvania regulators due in part to inadvertent returns or spills.

Delays related to those spills, among other things, have pushed the expected startup of Mariner East 2 from the third quarter of 2017 to the end of the second quarter of 2018. Some analysts, however, do not expect Mariner East 2 to enter service until the third quarter.

In an analyst call following the release of its earnings in April, Antero said if Mariner East 2 does not come online when expected and is delayed until the end of the year, it would cost the company about $30 million in cash flow.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Dan Grebler