The plans to build an ethane cracker in Beaver County are on track, said Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker. “I think that is on target,” Walker said of the project, which the company has been evaluating for more than a year. “That is my number-one priority as secretary. Everything seems to be falling in place. They are follwing their timeline.” Speaking at a morning session of the 2013 Penn State Natural Gas Utilization conference, Walker highlighted the project proposed by Royal Dutch Shell. It’s a project that would build a petrochemical complex that would take ethane brought up from the Marcellus Shale and convert it to ethylene, which is used in plastics manufacturing.
Last month the company opened bidding for natural gas operators to supply the proposed project with ethane feedstock. Securing enough ethane has been one of the aspects the company has been evaluating as it mulls building this multi-billion project. Walker noted the plant is expected to have 400 full-time employees but the potential for jobs related to manufacturing that would be using the ethane coming out of such a plant would be much greater. He estimated between 20,000 and 50,000 jobs from downstream manufacturing using ethane coming out of the plant.Looking out 10 years, Walker noted the tristate region must think strategically to work together and benefit from natural gas development. “We in Pennsylvania want to take a regional approach,” he said. “I think the Shell cracker will be very successful. I think in 10 years there will be three crackers in Appalachia. What we are trying to prove is it makes more sense to put a cracker in the field, and not take the gas to Gulf.”