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Shell Provides Information on Cracker Plant Opening

The Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County, which has been under construction for several years along the Ohio River, is close to completion.

Shell has never given a date for completion of the plant, other than sometime in the early 2020s, but in an earnings call in February, Chief Executive Officer Ben Van Beurden revealed that the plant will become operational in 2022.

“The chemicals project, of course, has been in Pennsylvania, of course, has had its challenges last year. But there, we are back to almost full complement on site. It will be probably impossible to catch up the delays that we've had, but nevertheless, I think it is going very, very well at the moment,” he said, according to a transcript of the call. “And the timeline, think of 2022.”

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of the construction site in March, where about 8,000 workers were on site. The company developed mitigation strategies to allow workers to safely go back and restarted operations in a phased approach.

Despite the delays, Hillary Mercer, senior vice president of Shell Chemicals, told a virtual industry conference in October that the plant was about 70 % complete.

In an emailed statement last week, Shell said the plant is more than 70 percent complete and that about 7,000 workers are on site daily. “On a daily basis workers are commissioning major pieces of equipment within our infrastructure units – a phased process that will continue until start-up. That includes connecting pipes and wiring that will eventually loop and extend for hundreds of miles along the site’s 386 acres.

“Portions of the site’s water treatment facility are also being commissioned and the site’s 250 megawatt power plant will soon follow. Production units (an ethane cracker and three polyethylene units) will come online after the power plant,” the statement continues.

When operational, the plant will use ethane, a product of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales, and convert it through a high-temperature chemical process into polyethylene pellets that are used in plastics productions. The plant is expected to create about 600 permanent jobs. It will also provide an important market for Appalachian natural gas.

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