Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

The Ethane Cracker’s Pollution Potential

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

An antique Shell gasoline pump at an Ohio oil and gas museum

Shell’s new Beaver County ethane cracker will likely produce tens of thousands of jobs, if the company goes ahead with the plan.

Over at Pipeline, Don Hopey takes a look at the other side of the equation: the emissions and pollutants that may come out of a major processing plant:

The ethylene cracker facility that Shell Chemical wants to build in Beaver County to process “wet gases” from the Marcellus and Utica shales has the potential to add significant emissions to the area’s industrial air pollutants.

As a result, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such an industrial facility would need to utilize “best available control technologies” to meet strict air emissions regulations and offset any emissions increases with equal or greater reductions from other facilities.

The EPA said petrochemical facilities that use heat and pressure to “crack” wet gases — such as ethane, propane and butane to produce ethylene, propylene and other shorter chain hydrocarbons used to make plastics — also can emit a wide range of air pollutants.

Those emissions — nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, fine particulates and greenhouse gases — are produced mainly from burning fuels to heat furnaces where wet gases are cooked under pressure to produce basic building blocks for a variety of petrochemical-based products.

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