By ISABEL ORDONEZ
Royal Dutch Shell said it has selected a site near
Pittsburgh for the potential construction of a petrochemical complex that would
process ethane from the abundant natural gas produced in the
Marcellus Shale region.
The announcement is a step forward in Shell's plans to build
a giant ethylene crackerfor conversion of the ethane
found in natural gas into ethylene, a core component for
plastics and fertilizernear the natural-gas rich
Marcellus Shale formation, which underlies much of the US
The company was expected to unveil the final location by the
end of the first quarter.
Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania had all hoped to be
selected for the site and have offered tax incentives to Shell.
Natural gas production in those states is surging due to shale
Shell said it has signed a land option agreement with
Horsehead Corp. for a site in Potter and Center Townships in
Beaver County, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
"This is an important step for the project, and we look forward to
working with the communities in Pennsylvania, and gas producers
across Appalachia, as we continue our efforts to develop a petrochemical complex," Dan Carlson,
general manager of new business development at Shell Chemicals,
said in prepared remarks.
Shell's would be the first ethylene cracker built in the
country since 2000. Its construction illustrates the revival
of the US petrochemical industry, which by the end of the last
decade had been considered moribund amid high prices for
natural gas liquids.
At the time, US chemical manufacturers could barely fend off
imports from the Middle East and Asia, which had better access
to cheaper natural gas.
The next steps for the project include additional environmental analysis of the
selected Pennsylvania site, further engineering design studies
assessment of the local ethane supply, and continued evaluation
of the economic viability of the project, the company said.
The Pennsylvania site was selected due to various factors,
including good access to liquids-rich natural gas resources,
water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power
grids, economics, and sufficient acreage to accommodate facilities for a world-scale petrochemical complex and potential
future expansions, Shell said.
In addition to an ethylene cracker, Shell is considering
polyethylene and monoethylene glycol units to help meet
increasing demand in the North American market, the company
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