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Shell moving forward with plans for proposed petrochemical plant

| Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, 9:12 p.m.

Shell Oil Co. officials have started planning the layout of their proposed petrochemical plant and have been talking with potential business partners about supplying them land on the site, a company executive told a Beaver County audience on Wednesday.

Nearly 100 people came to hear Shell Chemical's head of North American business development, Dan Carlson, talk about the plant, which could be built along the Ohio River in Potter and Center. He spoke beside a table featuring bottles of detergent and window cleaner, Ziploc bags and a polyester shirt, all made from the material Shell could produce at the ethane processing plant.

The permitting and construction process will take years, but the company is working on the design and the business relationships needed to support the multibillion-dollar project, Carlson said. Shell is looking for suppliers of raw materials such as oxygen and electricity and is interested in ethane from Range Resources, Consol Energy and EQT to add to the supply from its own wells, he added.

“In 35 years (at Shell) this is the most exciting and challenging thing that I've ever been associated with,” Carlson told the crowd. “It takes years to develop all the infrastructure to support a cracker. But once it's in place, it's one heck of a proposition.”

Several people said they appreciated the public meeting. Jamin Bogi, an outreach coordinator with the Garfield-based Group Against Smog and Pollution, warned about substantial air pollution possible from the plant, but said he was encouraged that the company is engaging the public early. Joyce Wilson of Center plans to bring her nephew to a second meeting Shell is holding next week, saying she wants him to be proud of Beaver County.

“I think it's fantastic, if it's able to pan out,” said Wilson, 45.

County officials at the meeting also said several companies intrigued by the Shell project have contacted them about building at nearby sites. Hotels are one possibility, but Commissioner Tony Amadio has been telling business agents who have called to think about building Class A office space, which is lacking in the county, he said.

Shell has been crafting “an elaborate plan” for construction to deal with traffic control, parking and material deliveries, Carlson said. Officials are likely to bring in materials by barge, and they have been working on shipments along the CSX railroad, he said.

He did not have a timeline for a decision on whether the company will definitely build the plant, saying he was waiting for several reports to come back from different units of the parent company Royal Dutch Shell plc. The company has big questions to answer about its ethane, but concern has shifted to a court battle over how much control municipalities have over drilling, Carlson said. If municipalities move to slow drilling, that could slow Shell's plans, too, he said.

“We're less and less concerned about whether or not there's enough hydrocarbon (underground). That's become more and more clear. But there is concern about whether that gas will be able to be developed over the long haul,” Carlson said.

“Pennsylvania has been a leader in this stage at promoting forward-looking policy to give producers like Shell more confidence that this resource will be able to developed long-term.”

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com

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