Shell picks PA for ethane cracker - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Shell picks PA for ethane cracker

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The long awaited announcement of the victor in the siting an ethane cracker – seen as a potential shot-in-the-arm for West Virginia's manufacturing and chemical industry -- is going to Pennsylvania.

Shell announced today that its preferred site is at Monaca, Pa., about a 40-mile drive from Weirton. The cracker is one of several that are being considered for development.

"We are very pleased to have signed this site option agreement," said Dan Carlson, general manager of new business development at Shell Chemicals. "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."

According to the announcement, Shell signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate property in Potter and Center townships in Beaver County.  

Shell's news release cites "good 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 as reasons for its decision.

Shell is also considering a polyethylene and mono-ethylene unit to the cracker.

West Virginia failed to attract Shell's cracker despite numerous offers and tax incentives, but officials have already indicated there are a number of other companies considering locating a cracker in the state. Additionally, the downstream benefits of a cracker coming to West Virginia – such as more chemical and manufacturing plants – are still possible with a cracker plant in the region.

Shell's announcement comes in the shadow of CEO Pete Voser's recent remarks that the company has not actually decided yet to fund the multi-billion dollar project.

"We are quite a few years away from … a final investment decision," Voser was quoted.

An ethane cracker takes ethane and turns into ethylene, a valuable chemical and manufacturing feedstock for making a wide variety of products. Ethane-rich natural gas is found in abundance in certain regions of the Marcellus shale underlying West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Ethane and other natural gas liquids must be removed from natural gas so that methane can be moved to market for heating or power generation purposes.

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