Ethane is a natural gas liquid (NGL) richly found in the Marcellus shale's wet gas region. Ethane burns very hot and must be removed from natural gas before using to heat homes and for industrial purposes. It is removed with a thermal cracker that produces ethylene, usually in pelletized form, a basic feedstock for plastic manufacturing.
There are presently no cracking facilities in the Appalachian Basin, yet with full development of the Marcellus shale, it is anticipated that one or more will eventually be set up in the area.
Most U.S. petrochemical plants are located on the Gulf Coast, and it is where ethane must be shipped for sale. As of October, 2010 there still was a lack of infrastructure to move product to market. Two projects underway to help address that need included: