LIMA — A nearly 50-mile pipeline that stretches from Wyandot County to Lima will become fully operational today, officials from Marathon Pipe Line told The Lima News.
The pipeline is part of Marathon’s $500 million investment project to connect Ohio’s four refineries with other pipelines in the Midwest and Canada. The project took nearly five months, as construction began on Jan 27.
Marathon officials said more than 450 contractors worked an estimated 1 million hours to complete the project, which ended up being slightly under budget.
Starting today, the 12-inch pipeline will transport a combination of liquid condensate and natural gas, which will be turned into fuel. The pipeline, which has a maximum capacity of 50,000 barrels of fuel per day, stretches from the village of Harpster to Lima, passing through Hardin County. Marathon officials estimated that, while 50,000 barrels is the maximum, a daily shipping rate of 25,000 to 37,000 barrels is expected.
The project is beneficial to consumers and local companies such as Husky Lima Refinery, according to Marathon officials.
“By connecting refineries in Ohio and the Midwest, it helps producers get higher prices for their commodities, and it helps those refineries get better transportation methods and prices for these commodities,” said Jason Stechschulte, a commercial development manager for Marathon Pipe Line.
Stechschulte added that transporting these liquid fuel sources via pipeline is safer and more efficient than using trucks, railcars and barges, which are the current hauling methods. He said it will also reduce truck traffic on the interstate and local roadways.
“When you compare all the means of transportation, pipelines offer superior safety, reliability and economics compared to those alternatives,” he said. “All are needed, but if you want to move large volumes, pipelines are the best way to do it.”
Currently, the only method of transporting condensate to the Husky Lima Refinery is by truck. Stechschulte said trucks can move about 190 barrels at one time, and it takes anywhere from three to four hours for the products to get to Lima.
“Our pipeline will be able to move 190 barrels in about five minutes,” he said.
To ensure there were no problems with the pipeline, Marathon workers performed several safety and performance precautions. Marathon officials said workers X-rayed the welds that connected each section of the pipeline, and tested the line with water.
“We pressured it with water well above what we’d see during normal operating conditions to make sure that it’s going to be safe when we go to operate it at that lesser pressure,” said Ryan Schroeder, business development representative for Marathon Pipe Line.
After that, workers ran a “smart tool” through the line to detect if there was any damage to the pipe. Schroeder said they encountered no problems during the testing phase.
“Everything tested really well,” he said. “We’re very happy with the quality that we got.”
To ensure problems do not arise in the future, Marathon is implementing post-installation practices. The pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Marathon’s Findlay office. Schroeder said technicians are able to monitor pressure, temperature and flow rates, among other elements.
The pipeline is equipped with a leak detection system, which will alert technicians if there is a problem. Marathon also performs aerial surveillance, which allows the company to monitor the pipeline from the sky.
“We also have in-line inspections that happen on a regular basis,” Schroeder said. “We can monitor if anything has changed from the first run that we did.”
The Harpster-to-Lima pipeline was the last phase in completing Marathon’s goal of connecting all refineries in Ohio, as well as most in Illinois.
“By the end of this weekend, we’ll basically be connected throughout the Midwest,” Stechschulte said.
The next step is connecting these Midwestern pipelines with the Canadian diluent market, which Stechschulte said will be completed by the end of the year.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.