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Decision on Pennsylvania Cracker 18-24 Months Away, Shell Exec Says

Royal Dutch Shell plc will decide within the next 18 to 24 months whether to build an ethane cracker in Beaver County, PA, according to a company executive.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Shell Appalachia Development Manager Sylvie Tran told the Duquesne Club that the company was still trying to determine whether an ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania was economically viable, but indicated the project was moving forward.

"We're starting to build our contractor base in the west side of the state where we think much of the opportunity will be," Tran said on June 7. "[It's] important to think about the commodity business as a cycle and to build your business model to weather the down times."

The 300-acre site near Monaca is currently owned by Horsehead Holding Corp., a zinc producer. Shell Chemical LP has signed an option to purchase the land, presumably for a "world-scale" ethane cracker (see NGI, March 19).

Members of Gov. Tom Corbett's cabinet were joined by supporters from the state's general assembly and local and regional officials Thursday at the Community College of Beaver County in Monaca to lobby for construction of a petrochemical complex, including an ethane cracker, in the southwestern Pennsylvania borough.

Bringing such a facility to Beaver County would create more than 10,000 temporary construction jobs and up to 20,000 permanent jobs in spinoff production and manufacturing industries, they said.

The benefits of employing up to 20,000 Pennsylvanians and lowering the raw materials cost for Pennsylvania manufacturers far outweigh the investment," Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker said. "It's not about politics; it's about jobs. It's about real people who rely on those jobs to pay their bills, feed their families and invest for retirement."

A $4 billion state of the art facility to process wet gas from the Marcellus would be the single largest economic development project in southwestern Pennsylvania in more than a decade, according to the governor's office.

Walker and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer recently blasted a media report that said the state would pay for remediation of the Horsehead Holding property.

Corbett is reportedly seeking up to $1.675 billion in tax credits over the next 25 years for Shell and other companies willing to locate an ethane cracker in the state (see NGI, June 11).

"If we passively stand by and do nothing we will not only lose the Shell project but also lose our ability to grow the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania," said Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser. "This project and others could end up in Ohio, West Virginia or in the Gulf Coast, where 26 of the nation's 29 crackers are located."

Joining the Corbett administration officials were supporters of the project, including state Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Allegheny), state Reps. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), Jim Marshall (R-Beaver), Robert Matzie (D-Allegheny) and Jaret Gibbons (D-Beaver). Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky and representatives of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce and local trade unions were also in attendance, according to a Corbett spokesman.

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