After temporarily suspending construction activities on the ethane cracker in March to limit the spread of coronavirus, Shell said it has been re-introducing workers at a measured pace – bringing the total number of workers on site to about 6500.
“As we safety ramp up to a pre-pandemic level of activity, the project remains on schedule to be completed sometime in the early 2020s,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.
“Workers are ... commissioning portions of the site’s water treatment facility. The site’s 250-MW power plant will follow. Production units (an ethane cracker and three polyethylene units) will come online after the power plant,” Smith said.
Shell, which decided to build the plant in 2016, has not provided a cost estimate for the facility. Analysts have estimated the project will cost US$6 billion to US$10 billion.
The plant will use low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to produce 1.6 million tpy of polyethylene.
Shell said it built the plant in western Pennsylvania to be close to both its source of ethane and its customer base. The company has said that more than 70% of North American polyethylene customers are within a 700 mile (1100 km) radius of Pittsburgh.
In addition to Shell, a unit of state-owned Thai oil and gas company PTT PCL is also developing an ethane cracker in the Marcellus-Utica shale region. PTT wants to build its plant in Ohio.
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