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Shell officially begins main construction of Pennsylvania cracker plant

Royal Dutch Shell’s subsidiary Shell Chemical Appalachia has started the main construction phase of its new petrochemicals complex in Potter Township in the US state of Pennsylvania.

This follows the successful completion of the site preparation and detailed design and engineering work.

The complex is close to the shale gas-rich basins of Marcellus and Utica. The Beaver County project is a US$6bn investment by the company. 

The final investment decision (FID) was taken in June 2016, with commercial production expected to begin early next decade.

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The early works program has been a significant project. Work included building bridges, relocating a state highway, improving existing interchanges, repositioning a rail line, and preparing foundations for the new complex. The site is now ready for the main construction to start.

“Today marks an important step forward for this major growth project,” said Graham van’t Hoff, Executive Vice President for Shell’s global chemicals business.

“The preparation phase went well and our focus is now on ensuring first-class construction. Shell’s commercial, engineering and manufacturing expertise will help make this project a great success.”

The company has been preparing the site in Monaca, nearly 28 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, which will house a 1.6mn mt/year steam cracker and three polyethylene (PE) plants with a cumulative capacity of 1.6mn mt/year to start up in 2020 or 2021.

PE is used in products such as food packaging, furniture and automotive components, and Shell has observed that more than 70% of North American PE customers are located within 700 miles of Pittsburgh.

The cracker plant will be the biggest part of the project, but Shell is also building a 250-mw natural gas-fired plant to power the ethane facility, as well as a cooling tower, loading facilities, a water-treatment plant, a laboratory and an office building.

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