Patience is a virtue. That was the message offered by Beaver County officials and a Shell representative during a community session to discuss the proposed cracker plant.
Curious residents and business owners gathered at Central Valley High School Wednesday evening to ask questions and learn more about the facility. Officials answered questions about the progress of the project, how environmental concerns would be addressed, and how area residents can prepare to enter the oil and natural gas workforce.
“There is a huge transition going on in Western Pennsylvania,” said Dan Carlson, general manager, new business development, Shell Chemical LP, speaking about the natural gas boom. “It’s exciting, but I am sure you have a lot of questions and concerns. They are valid concerns that we will work through together.”
When Will We See This Plant?
Carlson was frank about the project timeline, saying it could be years before a plant is up and running.
“If you take one thing away from this tonight, please remember that Shell is looking to form a partnership with the local community way before the shovel meets the dirt,” Carlson said.
And before the shovel meets the dirt, there are basic steps for large-scale projects that Shell goes through before a plant is fully operational.
“There is a lot of work that needs to happen at each step,” Carlson said.
First thing is first, Shell has to formally agree to build the cracker in Beaver County—a step that hasn’t happened yet. This lack of official commitment was on the mind of audience members. One asked, “How serious are you about building this plant?”
Carlson answered citing Shell’s workforce that is committed to this project—at least 50 people at all times working in corporate offices and many more in the field—and the investment Shell has already made toward the project.
“Shell is spending millions just this year,” Carlson said. “We’ll be into this into the 100 millions of dollars.”
According to Carlson, although you do not see actual construction at the proposed site, construction is going on behind the scenes. He said paperwork, research, and studies are underway.
Some of those studies include research into how the plant will affect traffic flow, how traffic will be controlled, what road modifications are necessary, how barges will be used, how the CSX railroad will be utilized, and others.
“It takes quite elaborate planning,” Carlson said.
What Will This Mean For Our Community?
The county commissioners are confident in Shell’s plan, and they see this as an opportunity to revitalize a region that needs a boost.
“This is the game changer,” said Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik, “I call it the field of dreams.”
Spanik said this is an opportunity to bring jobs to the area and that it could bring the county back to the more glorious days of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
How Will This Plant Impact The Environment?
Officials also addressed safety and environmental concerns.
Carlson said Shell is in the process of acquiring the air and water permits it needs. He said it is too soon to comment on specific technology that will be used to make the production process at the plant environmentally safe, but he assured the audience that they will have top-of-the line systems in place once the needs are determined.
What About Act 13?
Residents were also curious as to how the recent Act 13 controversy would impact Shell’s project.
Commissioner Dennis Nichols said that he believes that a balance of local and state input is what local municipalities are seeking. Nichols said that local municipalities still want to have a say in what goes on in their communities.
“There are very few places that want to stand in the way (of natural gas development),” he said.
Carlson said he is confident in the support for development as well.
“Pa has been a leader at providing forward-looking policy,” he said.
What Does It Take To Get A Cracker Plant Job?
Jobs, workforce development, and training are an important aspect of the plant’s future according to all the officials in attendance, but specific needs are yet to be determined.
Carlson said common positions available include management and supervisory, operations, and maintenance. He said most positions require a high school diploma plus a two-year certificate.
Training needs will be determined later in the process once Shell has solidified more details about the plant’s operations.
If you missed this session, there is still an opportunity to have your questions answered. Another Beaver County Community Session will be held on Aug 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Central Valley High School in Monaca. The community will hear the opinions of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and Beaver County officials on the impact of the proposed Shell plant. The session will feature an educational program which includes a presentation from Shell representatives and comments from local officials who toured similar facilities in Louisiana. Those interested in attending must RSVP at www.pittsburghregion.org or call 412-392-4555, ext. 4572.
To learn more about the petrochemical plant and what it will produce, visit Shalestuff.com tomorrow for a lesson in chemistry. We will dissect the production process and fill you in on what products you use in your daily life that can be produced with the end products from the petrochemical plant.