The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) said a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc wants to pay for relocating a portion of a state highway and for improvements to an interchange with an interstate highway in order to accommodate a proposed "world class" ethane cracker in the western part of the state.

PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan told NGI's Shale Daily that Shell Chemical LP wants to modify a 1.5-mile section of Pennsylvania Route 18. The road would be widened to six lanes and include a turning lane, and it would be relocated to the south by 950 feet. Route 18 would revert to a four-lane highway, with a center turning lane, after construction of the ethane cracker is completed. The road is currently two lanes.

Cowan said Shell also wants to redesign the Route 18 interchange with Interstate Route 376.

“The project is going through a process,” Cowan said. “It has yet to be determined the level of public involvement. Shell is working with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission to have the project added to the Transportation Improvement Program. This has to happen before the Federal Highway Administration can take action.”

According to the Ellwood City Ledger, Shell plans to create three temporary parking areas between the road's current and future alignment in order to accommodate workers building the ethane cracker. Additional temporary parking areas would be created southwest of Route 18's new alignment. It also reported that Shell wants a more direct on-ramp for Route 18 traffic traveling eastbound on I-376.

Shell signed an option to purchase 300 acres from Horsehead Holding Corp. in March 2012. The company has since asked for and received three six-month extensions to purchase the property, the site of a former zinc smelter, from Horsehead (see Shale Daily,Dec. 26, 2013; July 2, 2013; Dec. 28, 2012; March 16, 2012). The site is near Monaca in Beaver County's Potter Township.

Last month, Shell scuttled plans to drill in the Alaska offshore, and in December cancelled plans to build a gas-to-liquids facility on the U.S. Gulf Coast, as the company evaluates its portfolio and winnows some projects (see Daily GPI, Jan. 30; Dec. 5, 2013). Hopes that Shell is still considering the ethane cracker near Monaca were buoyed by the news that the company has been in negotiations with several landowners near the site, but financial analysts remain skeptical (see Shale Daily, Nov. 22, 2013; June 25, 2013).