Shell to buy Beaver County industrial site for proposed ethane cracker
A proposal to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania has taken another step forward. Shell Chemical announced Friday it will buy the site of a former zinc plant in Beaver County.
The cracker plant would turn ethane – a natural gas liquid being extracted in abundance from the Marcellus Shale – into ethylene, a building block for plastics.
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“This is a good decision but it does not mean that we have [made] the investment decision to proceed with the project,” said Ate Visser, the vice president with Shell Chemical who has been the lead on the Marcellus cracker project since May.
Several things need to line up before Shell’s top brass can make a final investment decision.
The company is in the midst of engineering and design. Major permits, such as a state air permit, must be in hand. Only then will the Appalachian cracker project be stacked against other such plants in the Gulf and against other investment opportunities in Shell’s portfolio to inform a final decision on whether the project makes economic sense.
And many of the permits Shell is seeking require it to be the owner of the property, officials said, explaining the timing of the land purchase.
While the deal is far from done, the company has held public hearings in Beaver County and local business-owners are already looking to get their piece of the pie.
More hearings are planned for next week.
“The development and operation of this facility will create significant opportunities for the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania, providing thousands of jobs and reigniting the manufacturing industry in local communities,” said Governor Tom Corbett in a statement.
Corbett has been one of the proposal’s biggest cheerleaders, successfully pushing for a $1.65 billion tax credit for the project – the largest in state history.
However, the announcement comes the same week Corbett, a Republican, lost his reelection bid to Democrat Tom Wolf.
On his website, Wolf says the proposed cracker plant is an example of how “the Marcellus Shale provides a great opportunity to grow and transform Pennsylvania’s manufacturing economy.”