Economy
5:15 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Beaver County Site Chosen for Shell Cracker Plant

Southwestern Pennsylvania is set to gain a major economic boost from the construction of a new petrochemical refinery. Shell Oil Co. will announce today that a site near Monaca has been chosen for the multi-million-dollar ethane cracker. Dan Carlson, Shell's General Manager of New Business Development, said today that the company has signed a land option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate the site.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's office says the governor will discuss the announcement at an appearance this afternoon in Pittsburgh. Corbett is expected to tout new jobs likely to result from construction of the facility.

Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania had all sought the plant and offered Shell major tax incentives. Monaca is just 20 miles from both the Ohio and West Virginia borders, so workers in all three states are likely to benefit.

But Shell said the Monaca site, currently home to Horsehead's zinc factory, had the mix of resource and transportation attributes "to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions."

The so-called ethylene cracker plant would convert natural gas liquids into other, more profitable chemicals, which then go into everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze.

Shell has said that it could spend several billion dollars to build the plant, and that the complex would attract a wide range of industry and suppliers to nearby locations, but actual construction is still years away. The company said the next steps are environmental and design studies and further economic analysis, then permitting.

It's also an unexpected turn for the Horsehead zinc smelter, the largest in the country. In September the company announced plans to shut the Monaca smelter plant by 2013, and relocate to North Carolina, along with most of its 600 workers.

Ohio and West Virginia officials had made all-out efforts to attract the plant. Last year West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said, "We intend to compete with the last breath in our body to attract one or more crackers," and Ohio's governor reportedly flew to Houston to meet with Shell officials.