“Cracker Plant(s)” Big Deal for Ohio River Valley

by Duane Nichols on July 1, 2016

Active construction site along Ohio River

Shell lifts veil on plans for Beaver County cracker 

From an Article by Paul Gough, Pittsburgh Business Times, June 28, 2016 

The Shell Chemical vice president in charge of the Beaver County cracker development said the 18-month period between this month’s announcement and construction will allow the multinational corporation to get its “ducks in a row.”

Ate Visser delivered a 10 minute talk Tuesday at the Northeast U.S. and Canada Petrochemical Construction Conference downtown. It was the first public remarks a top Shell executive has made about the Beaver County petrochemical plant since Shell announced June 7 after five years that it would go ahead with building an ethane cracker in Potter Township.

“We will use the time to complete our engineering, our design work and our site preparation, which means when we start with the main construction, we have all our ducks in a row,” Visser said.

Visser said Shell was pleased by the strong local, regional and state support, and added that Pennsylvania’s incentive package — which includes one of the largest tax credits in state history along with job-training incentives — was crucial to the company’s decision.

“I can tell you, hand to my heart, that without the fiscal incentives, we would not have taken this investment decision,” Visser said.

Visser outlined why Shell is willing to spend billions of dollars to build the plant, which is expected to create a whole host of other chemical production not just in Pennsylvania, but also in nearby Ohio and West Virginia. While other companies have proposed to build ethane crackers in Appalachia – including down the Ohio River in Belmont County, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh — Shell is the only company to announce the final investment decision. 

Ethane, a byproduct of the wet natural gas that comes out of the Marcellus and Utica shales, is used to create petrochemicals that eventually become plastic products in everyday use. Shell will use about 100,000 barrels a day of ethane at the plant.

“You ask the question, why Pennsylvania, why here. The answer is very simple: We are sitting here on a world-class resource base at the doorstep of the customer,” Visser said. “This will give us long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.”

Those advantages include being able to draw on the low-cost ethane coming out of the Marcellus and Utica shales and being close to the markets that will use the petrochemical products produced at the ethane cracker. Shell believes it’s going to be cheaper to use the ethane here instead of shipping it to the Gulf of Mexico, where both Texas and Louisiana have existing and soon-to-be-built ethane crackers. Plants in the Midwest and Northeast that will use the polyethylene produced by the Shell plant won’t have to pay to ship it so far, either.

“This means the customers will have shorter supply chains, will have more reliable supply chains, will have working capital savings, and will have lower costs,” Visser said. “This gives us a strength to our customers.”

While Visser did not provide specifics, it’s believed Shell has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars in acquiring the Beaver County site, demolishing the Horsehead Holding Corp. zinc smelter and preparing the site for development. That has included rerouting CSX railroad tracks and State Route 18 to accommodate development and building a bridge to keep heavy equipment away from Beaver County roads. It has also moved 7.2 million cubic yards of dirt at the site.

“We have literally moved a mountain,” Visser said. It’s about to finish the construction of two docks to bring modules to the site, he said.

Also key was the approval by the state of Shell’s so-called Act 2 plan, which described the plans for environmental remediation of the site from its longtime use as a zinc smelter. It will likely cost upward of $80 million to clean up the site, according to media reports.

“The Act 2 is critical,” Visser said. “Without the Act 2, we could not have taken this investment decision.”

More than 400 people work now on the cracker site and, at the peak of construction, up to 6,000 people will be working to build it. Shell plans to have about 600 permanent jobs at the site when it’s operating.

Showing pictures of the zinc smelter before Shell acquired it and the site now, Visser said: “This is a remarkable transformation.”

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On The Beahm July 1, 2016 at 11:21 am

Beaver County prepares for Shell cracker

From Jennifer Beahm, Pittsburgh Business Times, April 8, 2016, 

Beaver County’s actively getting ready for Royal Dutch Shell’s arrival, whether or not the energy giant ultimately decides to build an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

That’s the word from a panel who spoke at the Pittsburgh Business Times Corridors of Opportunity: Beaver event, held Thursday at The Fez. Panelists included Chris Reber, president of the Community College of Beaver County; Pat Nardelli, a partner at Castlebrook Development; and Sandie Egley, Beaver County commissioner and chairman of the Beaver County Board of Supervisors.

“The one thing about Shell is whether they make the decision or not, they’ve spent a half billion to date if not more, and it’s going up every day,” Nardelli said. “The most important residual factor is we are going to have one heck of a building pad sitting down there totally prepared for whomever. … They are making this committment, they’ve built the bridge, are going ahead with the parking garage, so something is going to be done. We are training people now, and we are going to be ready for Shell when they make that announcement.”

Nardelli noted that the infrastructure is starting to be put into place for the plant, including work being done on Route 18, sewer water being taken care of, and Shell seeking land to develop parking for the thousands of anticipated jobs that will be created during the construction process.

“When Shell needs this stuff, it will be there,” he said.

CCBC also has been working on developing new credentials that will aid upcoming workforce needs if the plant is built in Beaver County. The college has introduced two new programs, an associate degree in process technology and an associate degree in advanced manufacturing.

Reber also said a key to meeting future workforce needs is to ensure more Beaver County residents get post-secondary degrees or credentials.

“The single most important ingredient to be able to move into life-sustaining wages is education,” Reber said. “We have in Beaver County far too many citizens who don’t have a post-secondary credential. We are trying to increase the level of population that has post-secondary credentials. (This) will create a pipeline of more people who pay taxes and add to th revenue base. This will also help attract industry into the county as they see we have a stable tax base.”

Yet, one challenge ahead is Beaver County’s fiscal situation. Egley, a Republican who took office as a commissioner earlier this year, said she has been working to solve this problem.

“We had to prioritize making sure our house was in order,” Egley said. “When we opened up the budget, we found it’s $12 million off. … We went line item by line item and made cuts across the board. When we closed that budget, it’s one I’m very proud of. You can’t run on a deficit. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

Egley noted she’s also looking at ways to make the region more attractive to business, including developing areas off I-376 and spreading the word about the county being “open for business.”

She added that she’s been busy since the day she started her new role as commissioner.

“The third day we were mailed a hand grenade to the courthouse. We evacuated; we handled it very well,” she recalled. “It’s been nonstop ever since.”

And even if Shell doesn’t come, Egley said she is working to ensure other opportunities for Beaver County.

“Shell’s invested in us, participating in helping our schools with grant funding and STEM programs, but like the past, we’ve put all our eggs in one basket,” she said. “We relied on the steel industry, but that collapsed. We relied on U.S. Airways, but that collapsed. Shell, yes, we want you here, but I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m looking elsewhere. I’m making sure we are at the table when developers want to come in and build in Beaver County.”

Jennifer Beahm is managing editor at the Pittsburgh Business Times.


Grist Report July 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm

There’s plastic in your fancy sea salt, study says

By Katie Herzog, The Grist Magazine, November 5, 2016   

There’s plastic in your salt. That’s the finding of a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Scientific American reports:

When researchers analyzed fifteen brands of common table salt bought at supermarkets across China, they found among the grains of seasoning micro-sized particles of the common water bottle plastic polyethylene terephthalate, as well as polyethylene, cellophane, and a wide variety of other plastics.

The highest level of plastic contamination was found in salt sourced from the ocean: The researchers measured more than 1,200 particles of plastic per lb of sea salt. The team, led by Huahong Shi of East China Normal University also found tiny particles of plastic in salt sourced from briny lakes, briny wells, and salt mines, although at lower levels—between 15 and 800 particles/ lb.

Where’s all that plastic coming from? Microbeads, for one — those tiny bits of plastic in your face wash that go down the drain and into the water table, where they eventually end up in the ocean, and then your stomach. That’s not good because microplastics soak up cancer-causing and endocrine-disrupting pollutants in the water and deposit them in your body.

This study looked specifically at salt sold in Chinese markets, but is it possible that salt sold in the U.S. is contaminated with microplastics as well? Definitely, according to Sherri Mason, professor at SUNY Fredonia, and an expert on microplastics. “Plastics have become such a ubiquitous contaminant, I doubt it matters whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese or American supermarket shelves,” she told Scientific American.

How big a problem is this, and what’s the conscientious consumer to do? Well, the concentration of plastics in salt is still less than it is in shellfish, so it probably shouldn’t be the biggest concern on your plate. Besides that, salt is both essential for life and fairly easy on the environment, compared to most things we eat, so don’t go cold turkey on it just yet. So what’s the solution? You can start by ditching the microbeads: The less plastic that ends up in the ocean, the less that ends up in your gut.

Source: http://grist.org/article/theres-plastic-in-your-fancy-sea-salt-study-says/

See also: http://www.FrackCheckWV.net


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