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Environment & Energy

Governor Tom Corbett Optimistic about Potential Cracker Plant

Governor Tom Corbett is optimistic about the announcement that Shell Oil Co. has chosen a site near Pittsburgh for a major, multi-billion-dollar petrochemical refinery. He said building such a facility could provide a huge economic boost to the region.

"We need to keep in mind that this announcement doesn't mean this is completed," said Corbett. "There are many steps that have to be taken between now and the time the first shovel goes into the ground. This is the first step."

Shell Oil Co. has signed onto a land-option agreement with Horsehead Corp. to evaluate a Beaver County site for the potential complex, which would include an ethane cracker facility. Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania had all sought the plant and offered Shell major tax incentives. The chosen site in Monaca is about 15 miles from both the Ohio and West Virginia borders, so workers in all three states are likely to benefit.

"The Shell plant would represent, if constructed — and I'm going to say 'when' constructed, I'm going to be positive about this — the single largest industrial development in the state's southwest in more than a generation," said Corbett.

But, he added that this will likely be a years-long process because of site evaluations and environmental regulations, among other things. When built, it's expected to create more than 10,000 construction jobs and, Corbett said, more than 10,000 new permanent jobs would be created in the chemical and supplier industries.

The cracker plant would convert ethane Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene, which are then used to produce everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze.

"Projects of this scale are important as Pennsylvania seeks to develop a market for the natural gas supply that we have here in this state, and to create new jobs, and the prosperity that comes with them," said Corbett.

Shell has said that it could spend several billion dollars to build the plant, and that the complex would attract a wide range of industry and suppliers to nearby locations. The next steps are environmental and design studies and further economic analysis, then permits.