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Residents want answers about loud bang, orange glow at Beaver County Shell cracker plant

“Shell has received three notices of violations, submitted at least 10 malfunction reports and violated the prohibition on the visible mission…”: “Those effects can include things like cancer and respiratory aggravation, potentially leading to asthma.”

CBS PITTSBURGH

Residents want answers about loud bang, orange glow at Beaver County Shell cracker plant

MONACA, Pa. (KDKA) – Community members in Monaca are demanding answers after a loud bang and an orange glow filled the night sky from across the river at the Shell cracker plant.

Shell posted to Facebook apologizing for the loud noise Tuesday night, but residents KDKA-TV’s Meghan Schiller talked to said the explainer just left them feeling more confused and frustrated, and they still don’t know why there’s a hose spraying water at the plant almost 24 hours later.

“Eyes on Shell got notification from watchdogs around 9:50 or 10 o’clock at night of both the loud booms that are mentioned in Shell’s Facebook post as well as the light,” said Anaïs Peterson, Petrochemicals Campaigner with EarthWorks.

People started sending pictures to the community watchdog group Eyes on Shell. They shared pictures with KDKA-TV showing the dark smoke and bright orange color filling the sky.

“When they’re operating correctly, usually you don’t see any flare, any flame shooting out of the top,” said Dr. Clifford Lau, project manager of the Upper Ohio River Valley Monitoring Group.

Nearly 12 hours later, Shell posted to Facebook saying its ground flare was activated in response to a “compressor trip” which resulted in the noise. It continued saying residents might “see a glow from our ground flare as hydrocarbons are reintroduced into the system” over the next few days.

KDKA-TV’s Meghan Schiller asked if what happened last night was dangerous for people who live nearby.  

“Since they’re not doing efficient 98% flaring of all the toxic gases that come off of their process, and we don’t know which ones were not burned off, yes, I would say that,” Lau said.

KDKA-TV looked at the recent reports filed to the DEP and found Shell has filed over 35 malfunction reports since 2022, and in the past four months since coming online, “Shell has received three notices of violations, submitted at least 10 malfunction reports and violated the prohibition on the visible mission,” Peterson said.

Local mom Rachel Meyer lives nearby and is a member of Mom’s Clean Air Force.

“There seems to be something wrong with their flare. It seems to be that they are spraying it with water. Why are they doing that? Why didn’t they address that in their Facebook post? Again, it’s a lack of transparency,” Meyer said.

She wants more robust answers not just for her community but for her young daughter.

“Those effects can include things like cancer and respiratory aggravation, potentially leading to asthma. So, as a mom, I’m very concerned about how this is impacting my 3-year-old daughter and all of the other children in the area.”

Late Wednesday night, the DEP sent KDKA-TV a statement, saying:

“Shell contacted DEP last night to report a malfunction and subsequent flaring. Shell communicated that they experienced a compressor failure.

“As a result of the compressor failure, Shell shut the process down and flared gas. The flaring is required when there is a malfunction. As part of Shell’s Plan Approval, the facility has 30 days from the incident to submit a full written report to DEP with all of the details.

“Shell has been fined for several 2022 violations, and proposed penalties are being calculated for others. DEP has required Shell to report monthly emission data, which DEP has promptly posted online at this webpage: https://www.dep.pa.gov/About/Regional/SouthwestRegion/Community%20Information/Pages/Shell-Petrochemical-Complex-.aspx

“DEP is evaluating the situation and will act accordingly.”

Shell did not respond to KDKA-TV’s request for more information about Tuesday night’s flare or the water hose on Wednesday.

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