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Beaver County Petrochemical Plant About 70% Complete

The Shell petrochemical plant continues to move toward completion and a pipeline that will carry the feedstock for the plant is also almost complete, a company vice president said this week.

Hillary Mercer, senior vice president of Shell Chemicals, spoke via video during the opening day of the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Shale Insight Conference, and said that despite a short shutdown due to COVID-19, the plant is now 70 percent complete.

The Falcon pipeline, which will carry ethane, a gas liquid from the Marcellus shale to supply the plant and will run from processing plants in Houston, Washington County, and eastern Ohio to the cracker, is about 95 percent complete, she said.

“All the feedstock is locally produced gas from about 10 suppliers, all in the Appalachian region,” she said. At the plant, the ethane will be converted into ethylene through a super-heating process, and then go into three polyethylene units to produce pellets that are the building blocks of plastic products. The end product will be shipped by rail or truck to manufacturers, and Mercer noted that 70 percent of polyethylene converters in the U.S. are within 700 miles of the plant.

All of the major equipment and modules have been constructed or brought on site. Crews are now working to connect the equipment with pipes and wiring. Some pre-commissioning of the utility and water systems has begun and she said the gas-fired turbines could be brought online next year as the commissioning process moves forward. Mercer would not commit to a timeline for bringing the plant online.

Mercer said “everything was going really well” at the site, which had more than 8,000 workers in early 2020. Then the pandemic struck and Shell in March made the decision to shut down work due to local concerns about the size of the workforce and the potential for an outbreak. The company developed a mitigation and social distancing plan and slowly began bringing workers back. Just under 6,000 are currently working at the site an on-site COVID-19 testing lab for workers was added in July to prevent transmission.

At the same time as the petrochemical plant reaches completion, Royal Dutch Shell this week announced it is cutting as many as 9,000 jobs in a company-wide restructuring into low-carbon energy. Demand in reduction for oil has accelerated the shift to cleaner sources of energy and many large energy companies are taking notice.

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