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Boom Town…Shell commits to build cracker plant in Beaver County

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Jun 8, 2016By Christian Morrow

After four years of will-they-or-won’t-they, Royal Dutch Shell has announced it will construct a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker plant at the site of the former Horsehead zinc smelter in Center and Potter townships, Beaver County.

Project will employ thousands

The company announced it was going forward with the project June 7, much to the delight of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald who released a statement thanking Shell and congratulating everyone involved in the process, from Governor Tom Wolf to the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

“The project is monumental; the building of this plant will be equivalent to the construction of 25 stadiums,” said Fitzgerald.

“This announcement accelerates our growth to a next level and will provide even more opportunities for our young people. This multi-billion investment will bring economic growth to our region now and for generations to come, and we thank Shell for their decision to invest here.”

Shell first took out an option to buy the 340-acre property in 2012, and finally purchased it for $13.5 million two years later. It also purchased some surrounding properties for another $13.8 million, and has since spent another 80 million on environmental remediation of the smelter site.

And in addition to the billions it will spend constructing the plant, Shell will also pay Center Township $69 million to move its water intake infrastructure and build a new water treatment plant.

The facility, consisting of two “crackers” a natural gas-fueled power plant, and dock and a waste water treatment plant, will convert ethylene from natural gas production into polyethylene pellets. It will employ more than 6,000 workers during the construction phase and will eventually employ 600 permanent positions.

The governor likes those numbers.

“Since first taking office, I have worked in close collaboration with my Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, local officials in Western Pennsylvania, and Royal Dutch Shell to make the proposed plant a reality,” Wolf said in a press statement, adding.

“We have worked to develop strategies for safe and responsible pipeline development that brings resources to markets and facilities and we have prioritized the Shell plant to show the world that Pennsylvania is a leader in energy manufacturing and downstream production.”

In it’s own statement, Shell said construction is slated to being in about 18 months and would bring the facility online early in the next decade.

And in that time, Allegheny County Councilman DeWitt Walton expects great returns.

“This really bodes well for the region, and as a steelworker, as program director for the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and as a resident, I have to see that everyone has a chance to participate in this opportunity,” he said. “This is a chance to build a quality workforce, with apprentices who will be journeymen by the time the plant is built, and who can replace those skilled baby boomers who are retiring—they’ll be people who look like me and have aspirations like me, and have a chance to succeed. I am really happy about the announcement.”

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