Royal Dutch Shell plans to site its proposed new multibillion-dollar chemical plant in western Pennsylvania, the company said on Thursday, advancing a project that reflects a resurgence in US industry thanks to rising gas and oil production.
Shell has not made a final decision to go ahead with the plant, and needs to assess the financial case for the investment and secure permits. But Dan Carlson of Shell Chemicals described the choice of location as “an important step for the project”.
The decision to site the proposed plant near Monaca on the Ohio river, north-west of Pittsburgh, is a coup for Pennsylvania, which beat stiff competition from Ohio and West Virginia to attract the investment.
The size of the plant has yet to be confirmed, but it would probably cost several billion dollars. It would employ an estimated 10,000 people while under construction and several hundred when built.
Shell said last year it was looking at siting a petrochemicals complex somewhere in the Appalachia region of the north-eastern US to take advantage of the booming production of gas liquids such as ethane.
Advances in techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have unlocked shales holding gas and liquids that could not previously be extracted at commercially viable rates.
Shell’s plant would include a “cracker” to convert ethane into ethylene, a standard building block for many plastics.
It could have units to make polyethylene, a common plastic, and mono-ethylene glycol, used for antifreeze and resins.
Other companies including Dow Chemical and ConocoPhillips are also developing or evaluating new chemical plants in the US.
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