The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued key construction permits for Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC’s Falcon Ethane Pipeline system, which would feed the multi-billion dollar ethylene cracker under construction.

After what it said was an “extensive review,” DEP issued the Chapter 105 water obstruction and encroachment permits, and Chapter 102 erosion and sediment control permits.

“DEP’s due diligence included a robust review which facilitated the public’s participation by encouraging public feedback and access to important information throughout the process,” said Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Comments and questions received from citizens were reviewed by DEP technical staff who requested additional information from the applicant and included conditions in the final permits to ensure the protection of resources.”

The agency received input from nearly 1,500 commenters during the application process. The pipeline would traverse 45.5 miles across three counties in the state. Of particular concern, DEP said, was the pipeline’s proximity to a water reservoir in Beaver County.

The permits include construction techniques and special conditions requiring Shell to control pollution from construction of the pipeline in the area of the reservoir and other water resources along the route. For example, Shell proposed to deepen the horizontal directional drill below the raw water line, have a crew on standby for issues, have additional pre-stressed concrete pipe repair joints at the job site and use other construction techniques to minimize impacts to the water line during construction. 

The 97.5 mile, two-leg system would run south in western Pennsylvania to pick-up ethane from MarkWest Energy Partners LP’s Houston Processing and Fractionation facility in Washington County. It would also stretch west into Ohio, where it would pick up ethane produced in that state and in West Virginia at MarkWest’s Cadiz Complex in Harrison County, OH, and from Utica East Ohio’s nearby Harrison Hub fractionation plant in Scio, OH.

The pipeline would have a capacity of about 100,000 b/d, which would match the cracker that’s being built in Beaver County, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Company executives said earlier this year that pending regulatory approvals, they expected to start and finish construction on the pipeline in 2019. The cracker is expected to enter service sometime in the early 2020s. Construction and operation of the pipeline will fall under the jurisdiction of federal regulators at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.