Shintech Inc., a North American unit of Japan's Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd., plans to spend $1.4 billion on new ethylene production capacity in Plaquemine, LA. Shintech operates plants in Plaquemine and Addis, LA, that chiefly produce polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and vinyl chloride monomer, or VCM, the key ingredient from which PVC plastics are made. The latest expansion would include installation of an ethane cracker at the Plaquemine complex and capital upgrades to connect ethylene output to VCM and PVC production there. Shintech is near completion of an incremental expansion of its VCM, PVC and caustic soda capacity in Iberville Parish, while an affiliated company, SE Tylose, is building a plant at the Plaquemine site to produce hydroxyethyl cellulose, or HEC, a component of latex paints. Shintech expects to break ground on the project during the second quarter, with completion slated for the first half of 2018.

Hilcorp Energy Co. has reached a lease agreement with Fairfield Township, OH, for the mineral rights beneath one-quarter acre of a cemetery there, where its lateral will run from nearby private property and skirt just underneath the cemetery. Located in Columbiana County, about 23 miles south of Youngstown, Fairfield signed a lease with a $500 bonus and a 15% royalty on production from the Hilcorp well pad, which is on property roughly 5,000 feet from the Bunker Hill Cemetery. Shale operators in the state have previously drilled near cemeteries, while several offers have been turned down by township officials in eastern Ohio. Hilcorp has 38 horizontal Utica permits in Ohio, with most in Columbiana County.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recommended that Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) raise more cash, consolidate facilities and cut management to accelerate the replacement of its aging pipeline infrastructure. PGW, the nation's largest municipally-owned natural gas utility, has the highest percentage of at-risk pipeline of any Pennsylvania gas utility "by at least a factor of two," the PUC said. The company serves more than 500,000 residential and commercial customers. Work on the report began in January, after a hearing late last year in which concerns were voiced about more than 1,000 miles of aging cast iron pipelines and the decades it would take to replace them (see Daily GPIJan. 13). About two-thirds of PGW's pipelines, or 1,994 miles, are considered at risk and in need of replacement. The PUC said that assuming if PGW was to continue replacing those pipes at the rate it did last year, it would take 66 years to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to its distribution system.

The U.S. Energy Administration (EIA) said it is in the process of updating its maps of the major tight oil and shale gas plays in the Lower 48 states, through adding illustrations outlining the geologic history and processes of the formations on the new maps. EIA said that while its current maps focus on the geologic characteristics of the shale and tight oil plays, including rock type and age, "understanding [the] geologic history and processes [will help] exploration and production [E&P] companies reduce the risk of drilling dry, nonproducing wells and better understand hydrocarbon resource potentials." The agency added that "geologic age is an important determinant of hydrocarbon potential, beyond the characteristics of source and reservoir rocks. Identifying fossils, other chemical markers, and correlating rocks across different formations allows earth scientists to determine the age of the rock and to understand the processes that influenced the sediments and organic material over time." Last January, EIA updated its geologic maps of the Eagle Ford Shale (see Shale Daily, Jan. 21). The new map provides a better illustration of the formation's structure, thickness, surface area and gas-to-oil ratio.

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) agreed to a three-month contract to sell water to an affiliate of American Energy Partners LP (AELP) for Utica Shale drilling activities. MWCD spokeswoman Barbara Bennett told NGI's Shale Daily that American Energy-Utica LLC has agreed to pay the district $6 per 1,000 gallons of water withdrawn from the Clendening Reservoir, which is located in Harrison County, OH. The contract, which runs from May 1 through July 31, stipulates that the maximum that can be withdrawn is 2.5 million gallons per day, or six million gallons over three days. Bennett said MWCD's governing board also approved an easement in Ashland County, OH, for the 711-mile Rover natural gas pipeline, which is being developed by Energy Transfer Partners LP (see Shale DailyApril 13). MWCD is a state government entity that controls an 8,000-square mile watershed, covering about one-fifth of Ohio.