The much-anticipated cracker plant to be located in Beaver County recently took a step forward as Shell Oil Co. (Shell) closed on the land where the plant is to be located. Shell reportedly spent over $27M (as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) to purchase land in Potter and Center Townships in Beaver County.
Shell originally announced plans to evaluate the building of a world-scale petrochemical plant in this region in June 2011. In March 2012, Shell signed a land option for this property while it further evaluated the project. There were a number of reasons why this site was selected, including: access to natural gas resources and water, road and rail infrastructure, power grids and availability of land.
What would the cracker plant produce? Ethane is a natural gas liquid found in certain natural gas deposits, including Marcellus and Utica shales. The cracker plant would create ethylene from the ethane by rearranging the molecules. The ethylene would be further processed into polyethylene, which is used to create many of the plastic products that we use every day.
While Shell has not publicly committed to moving forward with the plant, the land purchase is certainly a positive sign for the region that the project is moving forward. The project is still far from completion, as it will take several years to construct the plant.