DILLES BOTTOM - Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas and PTT Global Chemical America spokesman Dan Williamson said Royal Dutch Shell's Tuesday decision to build an ethane cracker near Pittsburgh will not deter efforts to construct a similar facility at Dilles Bottom.
In fact, Thomas said the global oil giant's commitment to building in Beaver County, Pa. proves just how viable massive petrochemical plants are in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions.
"I think it is great news for the Ohio Valley. Shell's decision to build up there confirms that this region is where a cracker needs to be," Thomas said. "There are sufficient mineral resources in the ground to warrant plants like this being built."
More than four years after Shell officials said they were considering building the ethane cracker on property formerly owned by the Horsehead Corp. near Monaca, Pa. - roughly a 45-minute drive from Weirton - leaders with the firm based in The Netherlands confirmed they will process ethane in Pennsylvania.
"Shell's decision to move forward with this world-class facility, which will put thousands to work across our region through utilizing clean-burning domestic natural gas for decades to come, is welcomed news, especially given the challenging market conditions," Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said. "This investment also reflects the fact that domestic manufacturing's potential is near limitless thanks to our abundant and stable energy supplies from natural gas."
According to Shell, the company will begin construction in 18 months. The project will generate 6,000 temporary construction jobs, along with 600 permanent full-time jobs once it is operational, company leaders said.
"Shell's decision to move forward with its project in Pennsylvania will have no impact on our project," Williamson said. "There are rich feedstock resources in this region of the U.S. which are closer to our project compared to projects on the Gulf Coast and other regions of the country."
When constructed, the cracker complex is crack the ethane into ethylene, which is used as a basis for plastics and resins contained in items such as food packaging, textiles and pharmaceuticals.
Presently, most of region's ethane is either blended into the methane stream for marketing as natural gas, or shipped to other regions for cracking via pipeline.
"Our front end engineering and design process continues to move forward. We look forward to making a final investment decision in early 2017," Williamson added of the PTT project.
There are now six new ethane crackers under construction in the U.S.: the Sasol ethane cracker complex at Westlake, La.; the Occidental Chemical/Mexichem ethane cracker at Ingleside, Texas; the Formosa Plastics ethane cracker at Point Comfort, Texas; the Dow Chemical ethane cracker at Freeport, Texas; the Exxon Mobil Chemical ethane cracker at Baytown, Texas; and the Chevron Phillips Chemical ethane cracker at Baytown, Texas.
"Thanks to our nation's abundant supplies of shale gas, the U.S. has become the world's destination for new chemical industry investment. Our competitive edge will mean new jobs and exports and a stronger manufacturing sector for years to come," American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley added.