Local leaders ecstatic about ethane cracker plant in Beaver Co.

A new petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania has the potential to create up to 6,000 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs when production begins in within the next decade.

The project is to begin construction in the next 18 months, with production expected to flow beginning in the early 2020s.

Local economic and government leaders in the western Pennsylvania region are ecstatic with the news, says a Marcellus Drill News press release.

Shell’s initial estimate for the cost of the project more than four years ago was between two and three billion dollars. The current cost has not yet been released.

“We need make sure business and industry understands the economic impacts of a project like this in our region but also in the greater western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio regions,” said Lane Hummer, executive director of the Keystone Community Education Council.

“We have this incredible pool of displaced workers in our area – this is going to be a great opportunity for them,” he added. “Educating the public of what this company actually is and what they can provide for the area is very important.”

This particular complex will use low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins to produce 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year.

Polyethylene is used in many products, from food packaging and containers to automotive components.

The plant will “crack” ethane gas molecules from Marcellus and Utica shale wells into base petrochemical “building blocks” that can be refined to create polyethylene.

Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in 2012 passed legislation to give Shell tax credits worth $1.7 billion over 25 years to build the plant.

“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,” David Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

The facility will be built on the shores of the Ohio River in Potter Township, Beaver County. This location is ideal because more than 70 percent of the North American polyethylene customers are within a 700-mile radius of Pittsburgh.

“People will drive and hour and a half to go to a good job. You see it now with locals driving to Erie to go to work for General Electric,” said Hummer. “These jobs all take skilled laborers and from what I’ve got, they are going to look within a 500-mile radius to find such laborers.”

“The investment also reflects the fact that domestic manufacturing’s potential is near limitless thanks to our abundant and stable energy supplies from natural gas,” Spigelmyer added.

Rich Fitzgerald, chief executive in neighboring Allegheny County, said the plan for the plant is equivalent to building 25 sports stadiums.

“What a thrilling announcement for our region,” Fitzgerald said.

The western Pennsylvania cracker plant will also impact Ohio and West Virginia.

Sasol, a sister company of Shell’s, has supported the local business community in Westlake, Louisiana where a similar cracker plant is nearing completion.

“They have developed a small business resource guide, which is a living, breathing document that explains to small businesses how to get started, grow and connect to Sasol,” said Donna Little, director of the Small Business Development Center at McNeese Sate University.

Local businesses in the western Pennsylvania and surrounding regions can watch and learn from this cracker plant in Louisiana.