State approves Shell’s plan for US Appalachian ethylene plant

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved a permit allowing Royal Dutch Shell PLC subsidiary Shell Chemical LP to proceed with its plan to build a petrochemical complex in Beaver County, Pa., that will produce ethylene and polyethylene (PE) from Marcellus shale ethane (OGJ Online, Nov. 7, 2014).

DEP approved Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC’s air quality plan permit for the ethane cracker project on June 18, according to a series of documents posted to DEP’s web site.

The plan approval, which allows construction and temporary operation of the petrochemical complex, expires June 18, 2019, the final permit states.

While receipt of the permit is both a critical milestone for the project and necessary step that will allow Shell to proceed with some preliminary site development work, it does not mean the company has made a final decision to build the project, Shell Chemical spokesman Michael Marr told OGJ via e-mail.

“We will make that decision when our full project evaluation is complete,” Marr said, adding that preliminary site development work would allow Shell to maintain or accelerate the project schedule should the company decide to move forward with construction.

While Shell did not disclose a revised timeline for the project, the company initially planned a 24-month construction period that would begin late in 2015, with plant start-up scheduled for some time during 2018, according to Shell’s May 2014 application for the air quality plan permit.

DEP announced in early April its intention to approve Shell’s air quality plan pending the outcome of a public hearing scheduled for May 5, according to an Apr. 1 memo posted to the agency’s web site.

First announced in 2011 (OGJ Online, June 6, 2011), Shell’s Appalachian petrochemical complex would include an ethane cracker with an average ethylene production capacity of about 1.5 million tonne/year, three PE units with a combined production of 1.6 million tpy, as well as associated installations for power and steam generation, storage, logistics, cooling water and water treatment, emergency flare, and offices.

Feedstock for the proposed complex likely would be supplied by Shell’s recently reshuffled and newly discovered holdings in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions (OGJ Online, Sept. 3, 2014; Aug. 14, 2014).

Contact Robert Brelsford at

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