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MPLX’s Cornerstone Pipeline Transporting Utica Shale Liquids

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Sept. 29 marked a monumental occasion for Marathon Pipe Line (MPL) LLC and MPLX as Utica shale liquids began flowing through its newly constructed Cornerstone Pipeline for the first time.

The Cornerstone Pipeline – as reported in the March 2016 issue of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines – is a two-section, 50-mile long, batched pipeline system that serves as the backbone for MPL’s Utica build-out strategy. This is one of the first batched pipelines transporting Utica condensates and natural gas.

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Construction on the line began in March with full commissioning of the system by the end of October. The mainline contractor on Cornerstone and the associated Hopedale Connection, which is in the construction phase, is Price Gregory Inc., a Quanta Services company. The construction workforce on Cornerstone was 550 accounting for approximately 1.6 million OSHA manhours. The route was designed to run along existing rights of way where possible.

A 16-in. diameter portion stretches for 42 miles from the MarkWest Energy Partners condensate stabilization facility near Cadiz, Ohio, and the Utica East Ohio fractionation facility and condensate stabilization facility near Scio, Ohio, to an MPL operated tank farm in East Sparta, Ohio. From there, an 8-in. diameter section runs for 8 miles to Marathon Petroleum Company LP’s (MPC) Canton, Ohio refinery.  Two 6-in. lines – one built in the 1940s and one in the 1960s – transport gas and diesel between East Sparta and Canton as well.

MPLX Cornerstone Pipeline

MPLX’s Cornerstone Pipeline

Marathon’s refinery in Canton began operations in 1931 as part of the Allegheny-Arrow Oil Co. MPC bought the facility in 2005. The plant processes approximately 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline and about 30,000 bpd of diesel for the Midwestern market. Marathon upgraded the facility in 2014, building new state-of-the-art operations center and expanded capacity with a 25,000 bpd tower for processing Utica condensate. The addition brings the plant’s total capacity up to 93,000 bpd.

The 16-in. section is capable of reaching 180,000 bpd and the shorter stretch from East Sparta to Canton is capable of 45,000 bpd. A 150,000-barrel tank was added at East Sparta for storage of the condensate, joining tanks already in place for gas, jet fuel, natural gas and diesel.  Cornerstone coming online also replaces approximately 130 tanker truck runs between Cadiz and Canton with the trucks instead focusing on shorter local runs between Utica facilities.

MPC formed MPLX, a master limited partnership, in 2012 to own, operate, develop and acquire pipelines and other midstream assets related to the transportation and storage of crude oil, refined products and other hydrocarbon-based products. MPLX’s assets includes approximately 2,900 miles of pipeline across nine states and in 2015, MPLX acquired MarkWest Energy Partners.

Because Cornerstone is a batched system MPLX can provide the same quality of service from a single, larger pipeline, versus multiple smaller pipelines.

“The Cornerstone Pipeline has been sized as a 16-in. diameter system to provide ample capacity for Utica shale volumes,” said Jason Stechschulte, senior engineer, commercial development, MPC. “This provides MPL with future connectivity options within the Utica shale for the pipeline.”

Associated with the Cornerstone Pipeline is the Utica Build-Out pipeline projects. The Utica Build-Out projects have a planned operational in-service date in 2017. MPL is expanding several existing pipelines from East Sparta to Heath, Ohio and Heath to Findlay, Ohio. A new 12-in. pipeline is planned from Harpster, Ohio to Lima, Ohio. Additionally MPL is reversing the existing 8-in. pipeline from Lima to Robinson, Illinois. The Utica Build-Out projects will provide up to 50,000 bpd capacity of Utica volumes to Lima.  It also provides diluent pipeline connectivity to Canada.

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