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Companies deal with Beaver County developer for land rights, waiting for Shell cracker

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Lt. Governor Jim Cawley (left) with Senator Elder Vogel (center) and businessman Chuck Betters (right) tour brownfields at Bet-Tech Corporation on Thursday October 4, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Five companies are interested in constructing plants along the Ohio River in Beaver County, contingent upon oil giant Shell finalizing its plan to build a petrochemical plant nearby, a developer said on Thursday.

Charles Betters said he secured initial agreements in varying stages with the companies and cannot identify them for confidentiality reasons.

His C.J. Betters Enterprises separately put in place an option agreement with a “middle- to up-stream player in the oil industry” for 80 acres, he said, another project that could come about if Shell builds its plant. That agreement will expire in seven or eight months, he said.

“I'm of the opinion that once Shell comes off, all hell's gonna break loose ... in a good way,” Betters said during a meeting with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and several legislators.

Betters owns about 400 acres along the river — the site of the former LTV Corp. steel plant in Aliquippa and Hopewell. Shell considered the property for its proposed ethane cracker plant to serve the natural gas industry but instead chose a site in Center and Potter. Shell's processing complex, to turn gas byproducts into building blocks for plastics, would employ 10,000 during construction and 400 full-time workers, the company has said.

The company is analyzing its access to ethane and a court case regarding drilling rules in Pennsylvania before deciding whether to build, officials said.

Officials said other businesses, with potential for thousands of jobs, would spring up around the type of plant that Shell is considering, from pipe and concrete makers to sand haulers for gas drillers.

Betters said 15 to 20 companies, many based in Texas or Oklahoma, have expressed interest in his property since Shell's announcement in July.

Betters took Cawley on a tour of a portion of the brownfield site, including a $5 million dock that Betters built to make the property accessible to barge traffic. The state contributed $2.5 million toward that project.

“Roads, rails and water — you have it all right here,” Cawley said.

Betters said he needs financial help to develop roads and other infrastructure and that PennDOT agreed to kick in at least $1.2 million of the $2.5 million needed, because stormwater from the department's property runs onto the site.

State Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, said state and county money could help make up the difference, because without the funding, “there's not enough infrastructure to do it.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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