Steady and plentiful work is on the horizon for members of Chester, Pa., Local 654, thanks to a
newly announced, multimillion-dollar project labor agreement covering the
ongoing revitalization of the
Hook Industrial Complex
in suburban Philadelphia.
In April, Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the complex, announced that it had reached a two-year, $200 million PLA with the Philadelphia Building Trades to expand the capabilities of the natural gas liquids processing facility.
“We’re talking about 1,200 construction jobs total,” said Bill Adams, assistant business manager for Local 654 and the business agent covering the Marcus Hook area. “For us, that’ll be something like 300 industrial jobs at the liquid natural gas terminal.”
The continued success of the Marcus Hook facility has hinged in large part on the Mariner East pipelines, a companion project that has put across the state to work. For the last several years, members from several locals throughout Pennsylvania have been working on upgrading and maintaining the lines that transport natural gas liquids drawn from the Ohio portion of the Marcellus Shale gas field — the largest in the U.S. — to Marcus Hook. There, the liquids are processed for use as fuel to generate heat or electricity, as transportation fuel, and as key ingredients in the making of chemicals and plastics.
Local 654 Business Manager Paul Mullen anticipates no problem filling the Marcus Hook jobs called for under the new PLA. “Like with our work on the pipelines, we’ll be able to draw on our sister locals in the surrounding area,” he said. That includes Philadelphia Local 98 and Wilmington, Del., Local 313.
Built in 1902, the Marcus Hook complex served as a major oil refinery and gasoline producer until 2011, when then-owner Sunoco Logistics closed it down. The resulting layoffs affected hundreds of workers and spelled potential economic disaster for the area.
ETP announced a merger with Sunoco Logistics the following year, and thanks to a boom in shale field drilling in Ohio, the company drew up plans to repurpose Marcus Hook to process natural gas liquids and to store them for eventual distribution. Thousands of building trades workers from throughout the region were brought in for that conversion project.
This next phase in Marcus Hook’s renaissance is expected to get fully underway in the coming months. The project includes a massive new warehouse, a temperature-controlled storage facility for a variety of NGLs and general improvements to the complex’s wiring.
ETP said this latest work became necessary thanks to an expected increase in natural gas liquids flowing into the refinery along with growing domestic and international demands for Marcus Hook’s processed products.
The new PLA will provide workers on the project a measure of protection against potential economic problems, Adams said, while also providing a variety of employment options.
“It’s great for us and for the local economy,” said Adams, who noted that the steady work at the complex and on the pipelines already had gone a long way toward supporting the families of IBEW members, as well as the area’s residents and businesses.
In a press release, Kevin Smith, an ETP executive vice president, said that the company’s relationships with the IBEW and the other members of the Philadelphia Building Trades created an environment where the best skilled persons can come in and work.
“The combination of increased natural gas liquids coming through Marcus Hook through our Mariner East pipelines, and the labor force now in place because of the PLA, allows us to move forward to create projects that create a dominant NGL hub,” he said.
Adams said Mullen’s effort building a relationship with ETP has a lot to do with the complex’s success. “He puts so much work into staying in touch,” Adams said. “They’re very pleased with our work, and they know they can pick up the phone and talk to him or me any time, day or night.”
Once the pipelines are operating at peak efficiency, Marcus Hook is expected to see the current 200,000 barrels of NGLs a day nearly double to 345,000. A recent study by the research firm IHS Markit projected that natural gas from the Marcellus Shale field is expected to supply 45% of the natural gas production in the U.S. by 2040.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development says the Keystone State has consistently ranked among the top natural gas producing and exporting states in the U.S. over the last several years.
The terms of the new PLA apply to everyone working at the complex, Adams said, and the agreement contains language allowing it to be extended as needed.
“The Philadelphia Building Trades has worked at Marcus Hook for over 7 million man-hours so far with no accidents,” Adams said. “A big project like this one lets IBEW members, and our brothers and sisters in the other trades, really put our training and skills to use.”
Mullen said that this ongoing partnership between the building trades and ETP shows how valuable skilled labor can be for workers and management alike.
“As always, we are doing everything we can to make sure our contractors are satisfied with our work,” he said.