Shell's Falcon Ethane Pipeline will cross 9 Pennsylvania municipalities, FracTracker says
An ethane pipeline that will feed Shell's proposed petrochemical "cracker" plant in Beaver County early next decade is expected to traverse nine municipalities in Western Pennsylvania, according to an oil and gas industry watchdog group trying to raise awareness about the pipeline's path.
FracTracker Alliance released detailed maps Monday on its website of the 97-mile Falcon Ethane Pipeline that show the pipelines crosses a total of 22 townships in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, the nine are: Chartiers, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson, North Fayette, Findlay, Independence, Raccoon, Potter and Greene.
The pipeline project, owned by a Shell subsidiary, is awaiting permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Lauren Fraley, a DEP spokeswoman, said the project is under technical review by the agency until Feb. 20. Public comments may be submitted before then.
Kirk Jalbert, FracTracker's project lead, said he hopes the analysis will encourage public involvement before DEP issues permits.
"We used the exact information that Shell provided to the DEP. The difference is we simplified it and contextualized it to make it all more palatable to the public," he said.
Three environmental groups asked for an additional 30 days for public comments on Monday due to their concerns with the pipeline's route. The groups, Citizens to Protect the Ambridge Reservoir, the Breathe Project and the Ambridge Water Authority, also requested a public meeting with the DEP in Ambridge to address the concerns.
A CPAR press release Monday said an explosion of the pipeline would endanger 550 homes, 20 businesses, 240 groundwater wells, 12 public parks, five schools, six daycare centers and tributaries to the Ambridge Reservoir that are within 1,000 feet of the pipeline.
Ray Fisher, a Shell spokesman, said the company is committed to constructing and operating the pipeline in "a safe and environmentally sound manner."
"Shell studied elevation and topography data to determine the best possible construction route that could create the least amount of impacts to water resources, environmentally sensitive areas, local communities and private landowners," Fisher said in an email. He added that Shell has met with officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, DEP and county and township leaders since 2016 to evaluate the route.
"Shell Pipeline welcomes the community participating in the DEP's public comment periods," Fisher said.
FracTracker's analysis took more than a year to complete, Jalbert said. The data came from Shell's DEP permit applications and a public database maintained by the company's engineering firm AECOM of Los Angeles. That database can be found here .
There are 24 homes and three businesses within 300 feet from the pipeline's route in Raccoon, Independence and Mt. Pleasant townships, the maps show. The nonprofit considers those structures to be "at risk" in the event of a pipeline leak or explosion, Jalbert said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration classifies ethane as a hazardous, flammable liquid.
Data show one injury that resulted in hospitalization from nine pipeline incidents since 1997 that involved Highly Volatile Liquids like ethane, propane and butylene. The figures don't include pipelines carrying natural gas.
In Findlay, Shell intends to run its pipeline through a housing development proposed by Maronda Homes. The housing development firm could not be reached for comment.
The entire Falcon Ethane Pipeline will intersect 319 streams and 174 wetlands, the maps show.
It is expected to carry 107,000 barrels of ethane daily to Shell's $6 billion plant being built along the Ohio River in Potter, Beaver County. Construction of the pipeline is expected to begin late 2018. The cracker plant and its pipeline are expected to be operational in 2020.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dillonswriting.