Shell Chemical LP signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate a site in Beaver County, where it could build a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker plant.
The Shell subsidiary chose a 300-acre area near Monaca, in close proximity to the Conway Railyards and approximately 15 miles from the Pittsburgh International Airport.
“This is an important step for the project, and we look forward to working with the communities in Pennsylvania, and gas producers across Appalachia, as we continue our efforts to develop a petrochemical complex,” said Dan Carlson, general manager, New Business Development, Shell Chemicals.
The company’s decision concludes a tri-state competition for private investment which began on June 6, when Shell Oil announced its plans to establish the ethane-processing plant in Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia.
According to the American Chemistry Council, the potential positive economic impact for the Pittsburgh region implies a $3.2 billion investment that would lead to the creation of more than 10,000 permanent jobs in the chemical and supplier industries. Furthermore, Shell expects 10,000 construction jobs would result from site development.
The potential petrochemical complex would process locally produced ethane from Marcellus Shale gas production. The plant would chemically “crack” ethane into ethylene, the raw material used to make plastics and other materials. Officials believe that the construction of the plant could lead to the establishment of other major plastics manufacturers in the area.
When selecting the preferred site, Shell considered various factors such as “the access to liquids, rich natural gas resources, water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power grids, economics, and sufficient acreage to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions.”
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Shell could be years away from making a final decision on whether or not to establish the new plant. Further steps include additional environmental analysis, engineering design studies, assessment of the local ethane supply, as well as continued evaluation of the commercial feasibility of the project.