Shell Seeks to Horse Trade Air Pollution Credits for Cracker Plant

In June 2015, a full year ahead of Shell’s final investment decision (FID) to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant complex in Beaver County, PA, the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection issued the project air quality permits–which was a “critical” requirement for Shell before making their decision (see Shell Receives Air Quality Permit from PA DEP for Cracker Plant). Two months later, two litigious Big Green environmental groups with deep pockets–the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council and the Washington, DC-based Environmental Integrity Project–tried to scuttle the project by appealing the DEP’s issuance of the air quality permits (see Big Green Groups File to Block Shell Cracker Air Quality Permit). Fortunately the DEP blew off the Big Green appeal. However, the issue of air pollution is not yet totally resolved. In order for Shell to build the plant–a plant that will have a fair amount of emissions–they need to buy pollution credits from other plants. That is, if other plants are installing new air pollution controls, or shutting down, Shell can buy their emissions allotments, and use them for the cracker project. In the end, it’s all about controlling how much of the nasty stuff, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) gets pumped into the air in a given region. But there’s a problem. Shell can’t find enough VOC credits to buy, so they’re proposing a deal with the DEP to buy a different kind of credit instead–NOx or nitrogen oxides. Will the DEP allow Shell to horse trade NOx for VOCs? That’s the billion dollar question…

Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)