Study: Shale Offers Hope For Sunoco Pa. Refinery

The advent of natural gas from shale could potentially resurrect an old 175,000 bpd Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, Pa., near Philadelphia, according to a new report issued by the consulting firm IHS.

The report brainstorms redevelopment concepts and was commissioned by the Delaware County Council, which wants to recover some of the 500 jobs lost when the refinery closed back in December.

The Council and IHS came up with ideas that were a lot more creative than what I have usually seen driving by old industrial properties in New Jersey: 1) Leave it to rust until Mother Nature reclaims it. 2) Tear it down and build retail on it.

All of the report’s proposals involve hydrocarbon processing of one kind of another. Several of the ideas singled out in the report as having high market viability are relevant to chemicals. These are:

1) Propane Dehydrogenation: Braskem has a polypropylene plant downstream from the refinery and, as I have explained before, is likely on the hunt for feedstock.

2) Integrated ethane cracker complex: ANOTHER cracker?

3) Natural gas liquids processing.

Out of these my favorite is the dehydrogenation idea. Though, I have always preferred Philadelphia to Pittsburgh as a location for a Northeast cracker. (Better hydrocarbon infrastructure, plus I can look at it when I pass by on Amtrak on the way back from HQ). NGL processing is promising, too. But why stop there and not create a market for the liquids nearby?

The report looked at other options, too. Refined petroleum products storage (boring!), natural gas power generation (bleh!), LNG export terminal (yeah, THAT will happen so close to Philly), gas-to-liquids production (that could cost up to $6 billion, so forget it).

Cool report. Kudos to IHS and Delaware County for a lot of creative thinking.

Author: Alex Tullo

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