HARRISBURG, PA (WKBN) – Shell Chemical Appalachia announced Tuesday that it will build a petrochemical refinery, also known as an ethylene cracker plant, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania that will process ethane gas from local shale wells.
The complex will use low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins to produce 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year. Polyethylene is used in many products, from food packaging and containers to automotive components.
The plant will also create jobs, which Pennsylvania lawmakers say will be for years to come.
“It’s very exciting. This is a once-in-a-generation announcement,” Representative Tedd Nesbit said.
The news comes four years after former Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett approved legislation to give Shell $1.7 billion in tax credits to build the plant.
“It’s got a potential for 600 jobs at that facility but the other jobs that will come to the area because that’s there, it’s hard to undersell how important that is for this area,” Nesbit said.
Some construction has already begun at the facility, which will be built on the banks of the Ohio River in Potter Township, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
Along with the 600 permanent jobs, it’s estimated that around 6,000 construction jobs will be needed to build it. Pennsylvania lawmakers say the jobs will go well beyond that.
“The peripheral businesses that are going to come from the byproducts of the cracker, that’s decades of employment and revenue for our area,” Representative Eric Nelson said.
For some people living nearby, it doesn’t matter what the plant is making as long as it creates jobs.
“A lot of people are struggling to find work that is consistent, and I think it has the potential to be beneficial to the area,” said Kristen Lee of Rochester.
“Beaver County’s been losing people. Western Pennsylvania’s been losing population to other places. We have to have jobs,” said Bill Diamond of Center Township.
Shell said main construction will begin in approximately 18 months, with commercial production expected to begin early in the next decade.