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PA Gives $5M to Union to Train More Welders for Cracker Plant

5-millionOn Monday Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced PA taxpayers are forking over $5 million to Steamfitters Local 449 union for use in their Butler Training Facility project. The union training facility trains welders. The Shell ethane cracker plant, when it gets built, will need a LOT of welders. Right now the facility graduates 170 new welders a year. With the grant money, they will expand it to train and graduate 270 welders a year…
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MarkWest Says Cracker Plants are “the End Game”

end-gameThis story reaches back just a bit, but we found it interesting and instructive. On Thursday, Sept. 29, MarkWest Energy gave a tour of its facilities in eastern Ohio. Ethane was one of the big topics of discussion. During that discussion, MarkWest’s vice president of operations, Dave Ledonne, said this about the announced Shell and hopefully soon-to-be announced PTT Global ethane cracker plants: “The cracker plants are the end game. They are what we really need.” What did he mean?…
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Analyst Predicts 6 Big Cracker Plants Coming to Marcellus/Utica!

number-6At last year’s Utica Summit III event held in Stark, OH, Tom Gellrich of consulting firm TopLine Analytics, a company that “closely follows ethane markets,” said he thinks the first ethane cracker to get built will be the Shell cracker plant in Beaver County, PA. He was right. Shell announced their official decision to move forward earlier this year. At that same event Gellrich said he thinks the Marcellus/Utica region will see three, possibly four, ethane crackers built (see Expert Tells Utica Conference NE Will See “3 or 4” Cracker Plants). The Utica Summit IV was just held, this time in North Canton, OH. Gellrich once again addressed the conferees and this year he’s upped the number. Now Gellrich believes it is “likely” that a “half-dozen multi-billion-dollar plants” will get built in PA, OH and WV…
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Williams Considers Selling its Gulf Coast Ethane Cracker Plant

Williams Geismar Olefins facility

Williams Geismar Olefins facility – click for larger version

Williams, because of evil corporate raiders like Keith “Mini-Me” Meister, continues to be in a fight for its very existence (see Corvex Raider Launches Hostile Takeover Attempt of Williams). In an effort to shore up the company–make it stronger AND produce cash that can be used for various purposes–Williams announced in August they are selling their Canadian assets for $1 billion (see Bold Move – Williams Selling Canadian Assets). Yesterday the company announced another potential asset sale–the company’s 88.5% ownership interest in the Geismar, Louisiana olefins petrochemical plant…
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Why Did Shell Choose PA for its Ethane Cracker Plant?

Shell ChemicalsA great article in Investor’s Business Daily explores the link between shale gas and the “explosive expansion” of the U.S. petrochemical industry. Part of the petchem supply chain is finding a cheap source of ethylene, the raw material used in making all sorts of plastics products. Manufacturers get ethylene from ethane cracker plants. The article discusses that link, and the reasons why Shell chose to locate their new multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant near Pittsburgh. As you can guess, economics play a major role in such a decision. Here are the specific economics that convinced Shell that PA is a good bet…
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RE Burger Smoke Stack Demolished Today, Prep for OH Cracker Plant

RE Burger Plant

RE Burger Plant – click for larger version

The next chapter in the quest to build a $5.7 billion ethane cracker plant complex in Belmont County, OH takes place today. Part of the chosen site for PTT Global Chemical’s cracker plant is the 130-acre site where the R.E. Burger Plant, a coal-fired electric generating plant owned by Ohio utility company FirstEnergy, is located. Today is the day that the plant’s 854-foot concrete smoke stack will get demolished. By the time you read this, it will already be on the ground. Local media is calling the site “historical” and a “landmark.” We’d call it an eyesore. Bring on the cracker! NOTE: We found a dramatic video of the smoke stack and nearby buildings coming down–give it a watch!…
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WV is “Major Winner” from Shell PA Cracker Plant

winnerThe good vibes are still reverberating following Shell’s announcement that they will move forward with building a $3+ billion ethane cracker in Monaca, PA (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). It’s fantastic news for Beaver County, PA, and in fact all of PA. We’ve seen immediate positive effects, particularly in the local real estate market with announcement after announcement of new deals being done. However, the location of the cracker will be near both the borders of Ohio and West Virginia. Former state senator and current West Virginia Public Service Commissioner Brooks McCabe says the PA cracker is as good news for WV as it is for PA. He says WV is “a major winner” with the Shell PA cracker announcement. Here’s why…
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What Happens to Marc./Utica Ethane Until Cracker Plant Launches?

rejected.jpgThe Shell ethane cracker plant “yes” announcement is still, a week later, reverberating across the northeast (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). However, it’s going to be five, loooong years before the plant is actually up and running and processing ethane. So what happens to all of the excess ethane in our region in the meantime? There are some (precious few) pipelines to carry it to markets where it can be cracked, including Canada and the Gulf Coast. Or perhaps pipelined to Philadelphia where it can be loaded on ships and exported to Europe. But those options only handle a relative thimbleful of the ethane we have. Most ethane is blended with methane and sent down the pipeline to be sold as “natural gas”–something called ethane rejection. Separate and sell? Or reject? It all depends on the economics and available markets. Here’s a closer look at what happens to Marcellus/Utica ethane for the next five years, until the Shell cracker goes online…
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Shell’s PA Cracker Plant Will Increase Shale Drilling in Region

Shell ChemicalsThe euphoria over Shell’s announcement last week committing to building a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Monaca (Beaver County), PA still hasn’t subsided (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). Although the plant won’t be ready for five years–it takes that long to build one–already the plant has been a shot in the arm. As we noted on Friday, commercial real estate is taking off in the region (see Shell Cracker Plant Will Spur Real Estate Deals 150 Miles Away). However, there is another reason the Shell cracker is good for PA and for the shale industry: it will encourage more shale drilling. Currently Marcellus and Utica drillers have very limited options when it comes to selling ethane. Ethane is an NGL (natural gas liquid) that comes out of the borehole along with methane and other hydrocarbons. Some estimates say in the NGL-rich area of southwestern PA and eastern OH, some 20% of what comes out of the ground is ethane–at least for some wells. Right now most drillers have to dispose of that ethane–it’s an expense! When the cracker starts up operations, that ethane can be sold to Shell, helping the balance sheet of drillers. If you can get more money from what you’re getting out of the ground, you’ll do more drilling. Pretty basic common sense. In anticipation, CONSOL Energy already has a contract to sell Shell some of its ethane…
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Shell Cracker Plant Will Spur Real Estate Deals 150 Miles Away

Shell ChemicalsGentlemen, start your engines! Your economic engines, that is. The news earlier this week that Shell has made the commitment to move ahead and build an ethane cracker plant in Monaca, PA has, as we knew it would, set the region buzzing (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go! and Shell PA Cracker Plant Project a Lot Bigger Than First Thought). With the decision now made, those in the real estate community are salivating over how that decision will reverberate throughout the region. There is now an effort underway to lure manufacturers in Texas and along the Gulf Coast area to consider setting up in the western PA (and eastern OH and northern WV) area instead–to take advantage of being that much closer to the biggest market in the country–the East Coast. One real estate pro says commercial real estate for up to 150 miles away is likely to be impacted by the decision to build the cracker plant in Monaca…
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Shell PA Cracker Plant Project a Lot Bigger Than First Thought

Artist's rendering of Shell Monaca Ethane Complex

Artist’s rendering of Shell Monaca Ethane Complex – click for larger version

Yesterday MDN was one of the first to bring you the fantastic news that Shell has decided to move forward with building their multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant (see Breaking: Shell Pulls the Trigger, PA Ethane Cracker is a Go!). Shell mentioned their positive final investment decision (FID) as part of a larger, wide-ranging announcement on their plans for the next few years and beyond. They were slow off the mark, but Shell finally issued a separate press release about the FID for the Monaca, PA ethane cracker plant complex. As usually happens with a story this big, more details have come out after the initial announcement. For example: Shell’s initial estimate for the cost of the project, more than four years ago, was “$2-$3 billion.” Now? They won’t say. But some news sources are reporting it will be closer to a $6 billion investment. One even goes as high as $11 billion! What Shell *is* saying is that construction on the main part of the facility will begin in 18 months, with production expected to flow beginning “early in the next decade”–which we take to mean sometime around 2020 or 2021. Shell says the project will provide work for 6,000 temporary construction workers while it’s being built, and 600 permanent, full-time employees to operate the facility once it is built. Needless to say, local economic and government leaders in the Pittsburgh region are ecstatic with the news. Here’s more details about the Shell ethane cracker coming to PA, along with select reaction and comments…
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More Progress at Shell’s PA Ethane Cracker Plant Site

Proposed Shell cracker plant site plan

Proposed Shell cracker plant site plan – click for larger version

All signs continue to point to a “go” decision for Shell’s planned ethane cracker plant facility in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. Shell has now spent over half a billion dollars out of a projected $2-$3 billion (25%) on the project already (see Shell has Spent “Half a Billion Dollars” on PA Cracker Already!). Last month a local mall owner said that Shell has leased part of the mall’s parking lot for big bucks (see More Evidence that the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in PA is a Go). And just last week Shell’s CFO said the PA cracker project is “an excellent project” and they expect to make a decision soon (see Shell Says PA Cracker Decision Coming < 12 Months – Looking Good). We can throw a few more positive signs into the mix. A bridge Shell was building over top a local highway to give trucks easy access to the site is now complete. Shell has committed $69 million to build a new water treatment plant for the local town. And they are now building a new dock facility which, according to Shell, will be “critical” to building the new plant…
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New Tech Converts NatGas into Ethylene, Bypassing Cracker Plants


Siluria’s Oxidative Coupling of Methane to ethylene (OCM) demo plant in La Porte, Texas

Ethane cracker plants are big deals. We’ve been writing about cracker plants possibly coming to the northeast since 2012, when Shell first floated their idea for a plant and selected a site outside Pittsburgh, in Beaver County, PA (see Shell Announces Location of Ethane Cracker Plant). A cracker plant is a big deal for a couple of reasons. One reason is that building the plant generates thousands of short-term jobs and injects $2-$3 billion (or more!) into the local and regional economy. It’s an economic stimulus the federal government just can’t match–and it doesn’t come from taxpayer’s wallets! In addition, once the plant is built, manufacturing plants begin to locate around it, like mini-satellites. Why? Because an ethane cracker chemically “cracks” ethane turning it into ethylene, the raw material used to make plastics. And plastics are used in just about everything you touch every day. These satellite companies represent thousands of permanent jobs and perhaps an infusion of $15-$20 billion into the regional economy–off the charts! But what if cracker plants were not needed to create ethylene? What if you could bypass cracking ethane and instead go right from natural gas (or methane) to ethylene? That is the premise behind a disruptive new technology from Siluria Technologies. Siluria has operated a pilot plant in Texas for the past year that essentially converts methane into ethylene, without using ethane. Here’s the details…
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More Evidence that the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in PA is a Go

PREITWe have more evidence that Shell’s Monaca (Beaver County), PA cracker plant is now a go. MDN previously told you that Shell has already spent upward of half a billion dollars out of the projected $2-$3 billion it will take to build the project (see Shell has Spent “Half a Billion Dollars” on PA Cracker Already!). Now comes word from an area mall owner that Shell has purchased more land near the proposed plant and has leased part of the mall’s parking lot “for a significant sum of money”…
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Steady Progress at Belmont County, OH Ethane Cracker Plant Site

OH-WV mapIt was exactly a year ago (last Friday) that PTT Global Chemical announced their intentions to build an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH (see It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site). Since that time a number of positive signs have occurred that indicate this is a real, very serious project. One such sign is that PTT is paying $100 million to have the engineering work done for the plant (see PTT Announces 2 Contractors Working on Belmont Cracker Plant). Another sign is that demolition work at the site has begun (see Ongoing Demolition Work at Future Belmont OH Ethane Cracker Site). The demolition work, as well as the design work, continues. Here’s an update on the latest good signs coming from the proposed Belmont cracker plant…
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Cracker Plant in Scotland “Brought Back to Life” Thx to Marcellus Ethane

ineosThe Swiss-based company INEOS is a young but rapidly growing chemical company with roughly $40 billion in sales per year. INEOS’ competitors would be companies like BASF, Bayer and Dow Chemical. One of the projects owned by INEOS is an ethane cracker/chemical plant complex in Grangemouth, Scotland. It is Scotland’s biggest manufacturing complex hosting Europe’s biggest ethane storage tank–able to store up to 33,000 tonnes of liquid natural gas. INEOS announced yesterday that the second manufacturing unit at the Grangemouth plant has been “brought back to life” some eight years after being mothballed. The reason? To begin processing Marcellus shale ethane that will be shipped to it later this year from the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia…
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