Shell holds public meetings on proposed cracker plant

Shell construction manager Ken Conly talks about the cracker project at the meeting.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Shell construction manager Ken Conly talks about the cracker project at the meeting.

Shell is still weighing whether to build a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant in Beaver County. A spokesman for the company says it may spend another one or two years deciding.

Although Shell first announced its interest in an industrial site outside Monaca over two years ago, Dan Carlson, who is general manager for new business development at Shell, says the company is still carefully evaluating the proposal.

“We’re not trying to be evasive. We really don’t know,” he says. “Some of this requires input from other parties. For example, the air permit. We’d like to have an air permit before we would fund an investment like this.”

Shell hosted a pair of public meetings today to answer questions from the public about the proposed ethane cracker, which would convert natural gas liquids into products used in the plastics industry.

According to the company, more than 1,000 people turned out for today’s two meetings, which were held at a country club in Aliquippa, not far from the proposed site.

Shell did not give a formal presentation with information about the project. Instead, the catered event featured about 30 staffers who answered questions one-on-one with the public.

Andrea Davison lives in Coraopolis and is an environmental engineer with Nova Chemicals. She’s excited about the cracker and hopeful it could provide employment for her son.

“This will be nothing but positives for the area,” she says. “There will be opportunities for a lot of people.”

Retiree Dennis Ondrusek of Aliquippa was less enthusiastic. He opposes the plant and was upset by the format of the gathering.

“They don’t want to have people hear what other people say,” he says, referring to the representatives from Shell. “I expected it would be a sit-down meeting where they would get up in front of us and explain things and we would ask questions.”

The project is a top priority for Governor Tom Corbett. Pennsylvania courted Shell by offering it the largest tax break in the state’s history. Over a 25-year window the credit has been valued at $1.65 billion.

In December, Shell signed another extension with Horsehead Corporation– the owner of the industrial site– that would give Shell more time to decide whether to develop the land for the plant.



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