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Shell And DEP Begin Work On Ethane Cracker Permits

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

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

When Governor Corbett announced Shell had selected a Beaver County site to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker, he called the selection “the first pitch in a nine-inning game.”
(Wondering what an ethane cracker is again? Read our primer here.)
Construction is still years away. The first step of the process – the first couple innings, if you will – involve environmental permitting and regulatory work. The Pittsburgh Business Times reports Shell has begun working with the Department of Environmental Protection:

There is much environmental work to be done on the 300 or so acre site, currently owned by Horsehead Corp. (Nasdaq: ZINC), which has a number of outstanding violations primarily related to air and water.
After the EPA tightened its ambient air quality standards for lead, throwing some local areas into non-compliance, Horsehead’s zinc smelter was identified as a potential contributor to that lead pollution and the EPA called on the DEP to come up with a compliance plan.
The DEP’s air quality division and Horsehead are currently working on a plan to decommission the site by 2014. Already, the company is paying $9,000 a month in penalties for “ongoing fugitive emission violations” under a consent order signed two years ago.
On the water side, the DEP and Horsehead are negotiating how to resolves open violations, some related to wastewater handling problems.

This permitting is important because crackers – which converts ethane into material used in plastics – have a high pollution potential.

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