For those of us living in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, winter typically includes bursts of arctic temperatures. With the extreme cold weather comes a greater demand for affordable home heating fuel, and in Pennsylvania that includes propane.

Over the past decade, we’ve occasionally experienced a polar vortex, a storm system that typically hovers around the polar region. During the winter, that system can expand, sending cold air southward to the United States and beyond. This was especially true during the 2014 Polar Vortex, when much of the United States experienced record sub-zero temperatures — and Pennsylvania was no exception.

The impacts of that year’s cold snap went beyond school closings, flight cancellations and bursting pipes. That extreme cold disrupted the economy, and it led to unplanned outages and subsequent spikes in gas and power prices, directly impacting energy bills for some Pennsylvanians. Some residents were forced to leave their homes and seek heated shelter due to fuel shortages and power disruptions.

Pennsylvania also experienced propane shortages, impacting those who use propane for home heating. The next polar vortex could impact more Pennsylvanians, as an increasing number of people switch from fuel oil to propane. 

In 2014, industry experts cited inadequate pipeline capacity in the Northeast and the need for new and updated infrastructure, as well as the dire need for more fuel storage.

Since then, the expansion of the Mariner East pipeline system, combined with transformations being made at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex (MHIC), have led to increased availability of propane to be delivered by truck to local customers.

We continue to employ local laborers and tradesmen to make enhancements at the MHIC, including adding to the facility’s truck rack capacity. Since December 2016, capacity has increased from 13,500 barrels per day to an anticipated 40,000 barrels in January 2020 — meaning that more propane is able to be delivered to customers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.

“Thanks to the propane transported from the Marcellus Shale to Marcus Hook through the Mariner East 2 pipeline, we have enough to supply the entire tri-state area for 20-30 days — a much different scenario from five or six years ago,” said Ed Human of Energy Transfer.

Domestic propane being transported via pipeline to Marcus Hook has brought Pennsylvania from a propane shortage to a surplus.

“Together, Mariner East 2 and Marcus Hook are offering greater energy security and reliability to southeast Pennsylvanians and beyond — and they’re offering it with pure, domestic propane,” said Hank Alexander of Energy Transfer. “Needless to say, southeast Pennsylvania is in a much better position today should the region face another polar vortex.”

While winter is coming to a close, it is still possible that we’ll experience an extended period of cold weather. When the next cold spell happens, our local propane supply is ready to keep Pennsylvanians warm.