An affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell plc last month submitted a permit application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for the nearly 100-mile ethane pipeline system designed to feed the multi-billion dollar cracker under construction.

Shell Pipeline Co. LP continues to secure easements for the two-leg Falcon Ethane pipeline that would extend into West Virginia and Ohio. The company will need various federal, state and local approvals for the pipeline.

The Pennsylvania DEP is working to determine if the application is complete before it moves ahead with the actual review. Construction of the pipeline, which would have a capacity of more than 100,000 b/d, is expected to begin between 2018 and 2019. Shell is constructing the cracker in western Pennsylvania's Beaver County and plans to start operations in the early 2020s.

Falcon would have source points within the rich gas portions of the Marcellus and Utica shales. Ten natural gas producers have signed 10-20 year agreements to anchor the cracker.  It’s unclear how long the DEP might take to review the pipeline permit application. 

For years, Shell has been focused on site preparation, but company officials recently said that the plant’s major components would start being raised over the next year. The ethane cracker would have an annual average capacity of 3.3 billion pounds of ethylene. Three polyethylene units would produce 3.5 billion pounds per year to make the pellets for plastics manufacturing.