Pennsylvania Access: Q&A With Joe Colella | Energy Transfer

Joe Colella is executive vice president of business development for Energy Transfer.

Energy Transfer recently shared updates about our Pennsylvania Access initiative, which will bring refined products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from Midwest supply regions eastbound through Pennsylvania and north into New York.

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First announced late last year, Pennsylvania Access will utilize part of the Mariner East pipeline system once in Pennsylvania. It will expand access to Midwestern refined products further eastbound from Pittsburgh, which is the only Pennsylvania market currently accessing this supply, and as far east as the Lehigh Valley and to upstate New York.

Initially, the Greater Reading and Lehigh Valley markets will access these products directly from “off-ramps” from the pipeline, with additional Pennsylvania and upstate New York markets gaining access in the future through continued investment.

Q: Why is this initiative so important, and what makes it unique?
A: Increasing our region’s access to refined products is crucial, which we recently saw when the Colonial Pipeline was temporarily shut down after a cybersecurity breach. With 45% of the East Coast relying on that single pipeline for its fuel, all coming from the Gulf Coast, an interruption in service could unquestionably have a major regional impact. Fortunately, the incident was relatively brief and without long-term effects, but it emphasized our need to diversify our supply. In the future, Pennsylvania Access will be able to provide backup supply for other pipelines such as Colonial, and we’ll be able to deliver supply from the Midwest. This helps reduce our reliance on the Gulf Coast, as well as imports from Europe.

What makes this unique is the flexibility of Energy Transfer’s pipeline system and our ability to adapt to meet market demand. The current 8-inch Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline, which was recently taken out of natural gas liquids (NGL) service through Berks County in preparation for Pennsylvania Access, originally transported refined products from the Delaware River westward in the opposite direction. It was converted to NGL service and reversed direction in 2014 to transport NGLs like ethane, propane and butane — the building blocks of many of the household and health care products we rely on every day — while Mariner East 2 (ME2) was being built. Now that ME2 is nearing completion, we’re able to adapt to meet seasonal market demand for Midwest product evacuation and return ME1 to refined products service across most of the state, providing Pennsylvania and New York access to seasonal surpluses of fuel in the Midwest, while improving the overall security of fuel supply to the region.

While these changes in service require some work to modify and reconnect existing equipment along the pipeline, they do not require any new infrastructure to be built, and all of this work is being done on property owned and operated by Sunoco Pipeline LP.

Q: How will this benefit Pennsylvanians and others in the Northeast?
A: The closure and sale of the former PES Refinery in Philadelphia in 2019 increased the need to import fuel from Canada, Europe and the Gulf Coast, and currently volumes of these products are being imported from Europe to satisfy demand in the Northeast. And as I mentioned, 45% of the East Coast currently relies on the Colonial Pipeline and supply from the Gulf Coast for its fuel. Now, Pennsylvania Access will increase access to Midwest refineries and bolster our security of supply. 

Overall, completing Mariner East pipeline construction and transitioning to refined products service on the 8-inch line, as well as the ongoing NGL development at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, will have a significant economic impact in Pennsylvania. Energy Transfer will continue to inject revenue, add jobs and generate tax revenue across the state, all while giving Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers access to the fuels and products they depend on at better prices, with a greater degree of security of supply.

Q: When will the first phase of the initiative be finished?
A: Most of the work required for this change is complete, and we anticipate a third-quarter startup this year for early volumes to be able to flow further eastbound from Pittsburgh to Berks County and into New York.

For more information about Pennsylvania Access, including the ways Energy Transfer goes above and beyond pipeline safety requirements, please visit www.pennsylvaniaaccess.com.