Even with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and his administration’s support for a cracker plant in Beaver County, Shell executives say their final decision may be 18 to 24 months away. Shell has already been working for more than a year on plans to build the Western Pennsylvania facility that would convert ethane extracted from Marcellus Shale natural gas to ethylene, used in chemical production.
“There’s a lot more work to be done to determine whether the ethane cracker would be economically viable,” says Sylvie Tran, development manager, Appalachia for Shell Exploration and Production Co. While Shell continues deliberation, Governor Corbett’s tax incentive package, that would include an ethane tax credit to boost PA manufacturing as well as the natural gas industry, continues to pick up steam through the state Legislature. Shell execs should take this into careful consideration as the tax credits would total about $1.7 billion over the course of a 25-year plan.
Tran spoke in Pittsburgh addressing opportunities for local businesses created by increased activity in Marcellus and Utica Shale plays. Tran and and local business owners discussed the ways outside companies were engaging with local companies. “We’re starting to build our contractor base in the west side of the state where we think much of the opportunity will be,” says Tran. Business owners and other attendees of the discussion were able to learn about the Marcellus and Utica Shale and all of the things the industry is doing in and around Pittsburgh. Public support is key throughout this shale-drilling revolution. Without the support of the public and local businesses, industry leaders can (and do) face an uphill battle while they continue to expand drilling.
The year and a half to two years it might take Shell to make a decision on the cracker plant might not be so bad. This might be enough time for two things to happen. First, Corbett’s tax incentive package can continue to gain popularity and support throughout state Legislature as more and more officials become aware of the plans. Also, in this amount of time, the public can attend more meetings and discussions like the one held by Tran. During these meets, the public can gain a better understanding and awareness of what the cracker plant is all about. Shell can continue to explain its plans and how these plans can benefit the local economy in more ways than one, hopefully gaining support of the local business owners and general public.