Sunoco Logistics Partners LP has begun shipping ethane by truck from its Marcus Hook Industrial Complex to domestic markets, establishing a new outlet for ethane from the Marcellus Shale, and reinforcing claims that its Mariner East pipeline is not just about exports.

Gas Innovations, a specialty gas producer in La Porte, Texas, on Sept. 21 began loading tanker trucks and special shipping containers with the supercooled liquid at a new truck-loading facility at the Marcus Hook complex. Most of the ethane will be destined for domestic markets, said Ashley Madray, the company's executive vice president.

Gas Innovations previously bought ethane in Europe and shipped it to the United States because there were no domestic facilities geared to distributing smaller volumes of the material, despite the growth in ethane production from shale gas, Madray said.

While ethane in large quantities is a raw material in plastics production, smaller volumes are used in research and development in the manufacture of ethane-fueled power generation equipment and facilities, for refrigeration for manufacturers and storage terminals, for enhanced oil recovery at well sites, and in the manufacture of electronics, Madray said.

Sunoco Logistics is currently transporting ethane from Western Pennsylvania to Marcus Hook in its controversial Mariner East system pipeline, which critics have complained is aimed at serving an export market.

Sunoco Logistics, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners LP, has said that construction of the pipeline at the Marcus Hook terminal would provide an impetus for new domestic markets to emerge. Its pipeline will also deliver ethane as a supplemental fuel to a new power plant under construction in Cambria County.