Concerns over the Falcon Pipeline of the Shell Cracker Chemical Plant

by Duane Nichols on December 5, 2018

Shell Cracker under construction in Ohio River Valley in Beaver County, PA

Opposition Growing Against Natural Gas Pipeline To Supply Beaver Co. Cracker Plant

From KDKA-TV, CBS News 2, Pittsburgh, December 3, 2018

BEAVER, Pa. — Some pipelines in the region have ruptured, causing massive explosions. Others under construction, like the Mariner East pipeline, have been slapped with hundreds of violations for spills.

Now, opposition is growing for another pipeline to supply the cracker plant in Beaver County.

With the sprawling $6 billion plant under construction on the banks of the Ohio River, Shell Oil promises to bring thousands of jobs and economic vitality back to the county.

The mammoth plant also, however, brings safety and environmental concerns, including the proposed pipeline that will bring it natural gas.

“There’s never been a pipeline that never leaked. That’s a fact. Every pipeline leaks sooner or later, and some of them, as we just saw in Center Township, they explode,” Bob Schmetzer, of Aliquppa, said.

New natural gas pipelines are criss-crossing the state, and the Energy Transfer Company gas line exploded less than a week into its operation. The fact that the explosion was caused by shifting ground doesn’t inspire confidence in homeowners like Rachel Meyer.

“We certainly know that this past year with the rains, we’ve seen a lot of landslides, and it looks like that was the reason that that happened. So, you know, it’s scary that there wasn’t more preparation and understanding that that could have been something that would happen,” Meyer said.

The cracker plant will need a continual supply of ethane gas to crack or transform into plastics. Shell is proposing the two-legged, 97-mile Falcon Pipeline to bring the gas from Washington County, Ohio and West Virginia.

But it will need to cross streams and wetlands like the Beaver County Conservation District and the headwaters and water line of the Ambridge reservoir that supplies more than 6 million gallons of water per day to people in Allegheny and Beaver counties.

Residents like Bob Schmetzer worry about pollution and spills contaminating the water supply.

“This needs another route. Stay out of the watershed. Take it around. Do what you have to do, but don’t come through here and jeopardize 100,000 people and a whole economy,” he said.

For its part, Shell says it has spent two years working with landowners and engineers to put establish pipeline route, taking into account environmental concerns and planning safeguards for streams and water sources.

In a statement, the company said: “Shell executed numerous environmental studies and intends to take other steps to avoid or minimize any potential environmental impacts that could arise as a result of construction and operation of the Falcon Pipeline. Protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of communities where we operate is Shell’s top priority.”

Still, the Ambridge Water Authority opposes the route and the state Department of Environmental Protection has sent the oil giant a “technical deficiency letter” withholding construction permits at this time.

The cracker plant is already employing thousands of construction workers and promises to be an economic boon to Beaver County, but folks in the region say that should not come at the expense of the environment or their safety.

See the video report here:

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FracTracker News July 1, 2020 at 3:56 pm

Falcon Pipeline Construction Releases over 250,000 Gallons of Drilling Fluid in Pennsylvania and Ohio

FracTracker received an anonymous tip about a release of drilling fluids in the range of millions of gallons from part of the Falcon Pipeline in Jefferson County, Ohio. The source stated that the release could be contaminating drinking water for residents and livestock.

Documents from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that at least 70 spills have occurred since construction of the pipeline began in early 2019, releasing over a quarter million gallons of drilling fluid.

Yet the true number and volume of spills is uncertain, due to inaccuracies in reporting by Shell, and discrepancies in regulation by state agencies. Read on to learn more about how spills like these impact ecosystems and natural resources.


Sharon Kelly July 1, 2020 at 4:02 pm

Shell’s Falcon Pipeline Dogged by Issues with Drilling and Permit Uncertainty During Pandemic

From an Article by Sharon Kelly, DeSmog Blog, June15, 2020

Over the past few months, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, Shell Pipeline Company has pressed onward with the construction of a 97-mile pipeline running through Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Shell plans to use the Falcon pipeline to supply its $6 billion plastics plant currently being built in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with ethane, a raw material pulled from shale wells in the state and from neighboring Ohio.

A DeSmog investigation found that Falcon’s construction has struggled with drilling problems and has continued even while one key water-crossing for the pipeline lacked state or federal permits. During that same time, vast numbers of other businesses in both states — including the Shell plastics plant itself — were forced to slow or stop activities in efforts to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Throughout March and into April, Falcon was missing permits from state or federal regulators. Problems during a process known as horizontal directional drilling (HDD), which Shell attempted to use to install the Falcon pipeline under an Ohio creek called Wolf Run, forced the company to change its construction plans, and those permits had not yet been approved when the pandemic hit the region.

Then, on April 15, just nine days after Falcon secured its final missing state permit, the legal status of its construction was again thrown into question, this time by events halfway across the country. A federal court hearing a challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline in Montana tossed out a nationwide permit issued for Falcon and many other oil and gas pipelines, finding that this particular permitting program failed to meet the standards of the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws.

While appeals in that case remain pending, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to stop authorizing activities for new oil and gas pipeline construction under those permits until those legal questions were resolved. On Thursday, May 28, the Ninth Circuit rejected a request to put that order on hold until it issues its decision in that case. The Army Corps and Keystone XL’s backers “have not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits and probability of irreparable harm to warrant a stay pending appeal,” the court wrote.

Since the early days of its construction, Shell’s Falcon pipeline has encountered construction difficulties, according to public records from Ohio and Pennsylvania environmental regulators obtained by FracTracker Alliance and Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services and reviewed by DeSmog.


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