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Pennsylvania Governor: More Work Needed on Shell Cracker

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said there was a better than 50% chance that a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc will build an ethane cracker in Beaver County, and he said more work is necessary to make the facility a reality.

"We've brought Shell to this point, but the words on paper are not shovels in the ground," Corbett said Aug. 2 from the street in front of a soon-to-be-closed zinc plant operated by Horsehead Holding Corp. "We must join our imagination with our determination to get this project done."

Shell Chemical LP said it has signed an option to purchase the 300-acre Horsehead site near Monaca for a petrochemical complex that presumably would include a "world-scale" ethane cracker that would serve the Marcellus Shale region (see NGI, March 19). Shell has said such a facility would be capable of processing 60,000-80,000 b/d of ethane.

"If Shell decides to build this plant, that $4 billion investment will be felt statewide," Corbett said. "Pennsylvania has the chance to become the keystone of the new industrial revolution."

But the governor cautioned that potentially billions of dollars in tax breaks offered to companies investing in a cracker and associated manufacturing facilities may not be enough to persuade Shell to build the plant (see NGI, July 2). According to several media reports, Corbett said he was worried about the economy going bad and Shell subsequently deciding to "wait a year or two" before making a decision.

"We're not done," Corbett said. "We need to keep working. Our coalition for progress has come a long way, but we have miles yet to travel. We are seeing something happening in Harrisburg that I'd like to see happen in Washington, and that's a breakout of bipartisanship."

Sylvie Tran, development manager for Shell Appalachia, could not be reached for comment Friday. In June she said a decision on whether to build the ethane cracker would be made within the next 18 to 24 months (see NGI, June 18).

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