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Shell: Expect ‘continuous’ flaring at Pennsylvania cracker plant during maintenance

Shell: Expect ‘continuous’ flaring at cracker plant during maintenance

CHRISSY SUTTLES   Beaver County Times

MARCH 28, 2023

POTTER TWP. – Residents should expect continuous elevated flaring at Shell’s ethane cracker plant as crews perform maintenance and repairs at the facility.

Shell leadership announced a controlled shutdown of portions of the Beaver County petrochemicals complex Saturday for repairs and maintenance on one of the unit systems.

“This will require us to fully activate our elevated flare for a period of time,” company representatives posted on Facebook. “We apologize for any noise or visual disruption this may cause our friends and neighbors.”

The company did not elaborate further on the maintenance plan for the site. Shell “generally doesn’t share specific maintenance work scopes due to competitive reasons,” spokesman Curtis Thomas told The Times Monday.

Shell couldn’t say exactly how long the shutdown will last, but those living and working near the plant should expect to see elevated flaring for the time being.

“We move at the speed of safety, therefore we don’t have an exact timeframe for when we will return the equipment back into service,” Thomas said. “As we have told the community, some flaring will be continuous at the site. We will always try to reduce putting the elevated flare in full service as much as possible.”

More:Shell to ‘reinforce’ ground flare stack at Beaver County cracker plant

Shell earlier this month announced plans to reinforce portions of a ground flare stack at the plant. A video posted online taken by a passerby appeared to show workers hosing a “hot spot” on the structure during a flaring event.

“It’s not uncommon for water to be used to assist in cooling external areas of ground flares,” Thomas said in mid-March. “We have identified some areas on one ground flare that will eventually be reinforced during a planned maintenance activity. The site is designed to safely operate with one ground flare in service to support maintenance activities such as this.”

It’s unclear if the stack will be repaired during this shutdown.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued Shell violation notices in recent months for exceeding its rolling limit on air contaminants that can cause or worsen respiratory illness and lung disease. The company, which put its multi-billion-dollar plastics plant fully online in November 2022, has submitted roughly 30 malfunction reports to the DEP since September. Many of these incidents led to unplanned gas flaring, used as a safety mechanism to prevent pressure buildup and burn off excess hydrocarbons at the plant.

More:Shell hit with air permit violations; activists call for operations halt

Clean Air Council and the Environmental Integrity Project last month filed a notice of intent to sue Shell for violating these air pollution limits and asked the DEP to temporarily halt operations at the complex. Shell’s visible emissions at the plant from both ground and elevated flares “shall not exceed 0% except for a total of five minutes during any consecutive two-hour period,” according to the plant’s permit and federal regulations.

Lawsuit filed:Shell’s cracker plant pollution prompts civil lawsuit

When operations beganShell begins cracker plant operations in Beaver County

“The safety of our workers the community and the environment are our top priorities,” Thomas said.


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