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Shell Receives Air Quality Permit from PA DEP for Cracker Plant

Finally, after months and months of waiting, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has granted an air quality permit that allows Shell to operate a proposed ethane cracker plant in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. MDN told you the DEP signaled they would approve the air quality permit back in March (see PA DEP Signals Approval for Shell Ethane Cracker Air Quality Plan). Three months later the DEP finally issued the permit–no small miracle given the agency is now run by PennFuture DEP Sec. John Quigley. Shell had stated getting the permit would be a “critical” step in the process to moving forward. Now that they have the permit, what kinds of encouraging words do we have from Shell? The permit “does not mean we have made a final decision to build the project.” Which is the same standard line they’ve delivered since 2011 when this whole process began (see Shell Commits to Building a Billion Dollar Chemical Plant in the Marcellus Region of U.S.). Four years of being teased with this project has led us to think we’ve contracted post traumatic cracker disorder (PTCD)…
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Odebrecht CEO Arrested; What Does it Mean for WV Cracker Plant?

Scandal has rocked Odebrecht, the Brazilian company that in November 2013 announced it wants to build a $4 billion ethane cracker plant complex near Parkersburg, WV (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). Marcelo Odebrecht, president and CEO of Odebrecht SA–one of the largest construction companies in South America–was recently arrested for being part of a plan that stole “billions of dollars” from Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company. His arrest raises legitimate questions about the viability of the proposed Parkersburg ethane cracker project. We can all pretend that the arrest of the CEO of the company proposing to build the plant has little or no effect on the future of the project–but we’re not children. So let’s not pretend. What do you think is occupying Mr. Odebrecht’s attention these days–building a petrochemical plant in far-off West Virginia, or staying out of jail?…
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Shell Buys Beaver County, PA Property for Future Cracker Plant

Another positive sign that Shell may move forward with building a $2-$3 billion ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, PA. Yesterday it was reported that Shell closed on the former Horsehead zinc smelter property in Potter that would be the primary location of the cracker plant. Previously Shell extended their option to buy the property–three different times. They’ve finally bought the property–for $13.5 million according to the deed transfer, although it’s quite possible Shell paid way more than that for the property. One real estate expert in the area said the property is worth $75-$100 million. In addition to buying the old Horsehead site, Shell, over time, has also purchased 12 other parcels in the area…
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OH Gov Kasich Keeps Cracker Plant “Incentives” a Secret–for Now

it's a secretWe continue to find it deliciously ironic that the jingoistic man who hates having “foreigners” from places like Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana come to work in his state in the oil and gas fields, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is the man who is desperately courting a Thai and Japanese joint venture to invest billions in his state. Along with that investment will come workers from those countries. We’re talking, of course, about the recent announcement that that PTT Global Chemical, Thailand’s largest integrated petrochemical and refining company, and money partner Marubeni Corporation, a Japan-based company, have selected Belmont County, OH as the location to build a $5 billion ethane cracker plant complex (see It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site). The key negotiator of the deal is JobsOhio, which is an agency set up by Kasich to promote the state. That is, JobsOhio = John Kasich. Now we learn, from none other than PTT, that JobsOhio/Kasich offered “an aggressive incentive package” to lure the project there. How aggressive? JobsOhio (i.e. Kasich) is keeping the details of the incentive package secret until PTT signs the paperwork to proceed with the project–something that won’t happen for at least a year or two…
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OOGA: Cracker Plants Would Turn Ethane from Expense into Cash

There are three potential, large scale ethane cracker plants in play in the Marcellus/Utica region: Shell with a proposed plant in Beaver County, PA; Odebrecht with a proposed plant in Wood County, WV; and PTT Global Chemical with a proposed plant in Belmont County, OH. Of the three, Shell’s project seems the most likely to get built. The Odebrect plant is on hold, and the PTT plant is the new kid with lots of fanfare–but it’s way to early to gauge whether or not it’s a serious venture. We’ve written a number of stories over the years about the enormous economic benefits of a cracker plant–the jobs in building the plant, and then the jobs at the plant and the jobs for dozens/perhaps hundreds of satellite plants that will locate near it. The economic impact from a single cracker plant is upward of a staggering $20 billion. One of the often overlooked and little-talked-about aspects of the plants is what it will do for drillers. Right now a lot of ethane, the hydrocarbon that will feed these plants, is being produced in the tri-state area of PA, WV and OH. And right now ethane is an expense. Ethane is costing drillers money! They have to dispose of it somehow. When a cracker plant opens, drillers can then sell ethane to the plant and make money on ethane. It magically turns from an expense into cash…
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WV Officials Say Odebrecht Considering Reconfigured Cracker Plant

As MDN told you a month ago, Brazilian company Odebrecht is signaling they may not build an ethane cracker plant near Parkersburg, WV after all (see Odebrect Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). Which is a big disappointment, since the project seemed to have so much forward momentum. However, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s representatives are still not defeated–far from it. They don’t see Odebrecht’s statement that the plant “needs to be re-evaluated” (Odebrecht’s words, not ours) as a definite “no” so they’re continuing to hold out hope that it will get built, but perhaps modified from its original plan…
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More Signs Shell is Close to Decision on PA Ethane Cracker Plant

More signs that Shell is much closer to a decision on whether or not it will build an ethane cracker plant in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. An executive vice president with Shell Chemicals, speaking off-script at an event in Germany, said the company expects to make a decision “soon.” After that an official Shell spokesman, speaking on-script, came along to clean up the EVP’s poopy mess and said there is no timeline on a decision. Another positive sign, according to the EVP, is that the front-end engineering and design study on the project has been completed. But according to the spokesman, even though the study is done, there are “still hurdles” before making such a large investment decision. So it’s a tit for tat, back and forth. Our take: even though we’re suffering from cracker fatigue, we continue to be hopeful that Shell will be the first of those to announce a possible cracker to actually pull the trigger and build it…
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Shell to Close on PA Cracker Plant Property in “Next Few Months”

Last week we told you a positive sign that the proposed $2-$3 billion ethane cracker plant to be built by Shell in Monaca (Beaver County), PA was the joint information session recently held by the Dept. of Environmental Protection and Shell to discuss an air quality permit the DEP will issue for the project (see Progress: DEP & Shell Hold Info Session on PA Cracker Plant). Here’s yet another very encouraging sign: Horsehead Corporation, which still owns the site Shell would use to build the plant, said in their first quarter update that they expect to close on a sale of the property to Shell “within the next few months”…
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Progress: DEP & Shell Hold Info Session on PA Cracker Plant

Another positive sign that Shell continues to be very serious about building a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. Yesterday representatives from Shell and the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection held a two-hour meeting (with Q&A) to discuss the air quality permit required to build the plant. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the crowd in attendance was almost all in favor of the project. Air wasn’t the only issue discussed–some had questions about potential noise from the plant. The session began with Q&A and ended with two dozen or so speakers who had signed up to give official, on the record comments about the plant…
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Belmont County Elated with Cracker Plant Announcement (Drip)

Raindrops Keep Falling on my HeadWe hate to rain on Belmont County, OH’s parade, but we have to point out their celebration over the announcement about a potential ethane cracker plant announced on Wednesday may be a bit premature (see It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site). Yes, we’re super excited at the prospect of a cracker plant getting built somewhere in the northeast–and if it’s this one, to be built by Thailand and Japan, we’ll be as elated as the officials in Belmont County are (see below). However, we would like to point them to Beaver County, PA, about an hour’s drive across the border, where local officials there have been waiting for more than three years for Shell to get off the pot with a project to build a cracker plant there. Elation–when it comes to these cracker plant projects–sooner or later turns into concern, and eventually into dimmed and elusive hope. The one thing Belmont County CAN celebrate is that the company proposing to possibly build the cracker plant in the county will spend around $150 million to evaluate the site first–so at least the county will get a bit of an economic bump from that…
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It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site

its officialAs we told you Tuesday, Ohio is now squarely in the ethane cracker race (see Rumor: Ohio Cracker Plant Announcement Coming This Week). As predicted, yesterday Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Belmont County, OH officials announced a pair of companies from Thailand and Japan were partnering with the aim of building an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County (see the announcement below). It is a $5 billion project, according to media reports–larger than the price tag for both the possible Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County, PA and the Odebrect ethane cracker/petrochemical facility in Parkersburg, WV–which is now on pause (see Odebrect Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). Speaking of which–you may now color us skeptical and jaded that any of these projects, including the one in Ohio, will ever get built…
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PA Gov. Wolf Talks to Shell About Beaver County Cracker Plant

PA Gov. Tom Wolf is bullish on the possibility of an ethane cracker coming to Beaver County, PA. He thinks a cracker is “inevitable.” In what can only be described as a faux pas for Wolf, he spoke about his love of a cracker yesterday, on Earth Day (oops). Earth Day is all about Democrats professing love of Mother Earth and hatred of fossil fuels. Must be Wolf didn’t get the memo. Wolf says he’s spoken to Shell muckety-mucks to let them know PA still wants a cracker. He said the Shell muckety-mucks say the project is “still on track” although there’s no timetable for a decision–which we take to mean no decision will be made for the foreseeable future…
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Rumor: Ohio Cracker Plant Announcement Coming This Week

rumor millLast October MDN told you about the rumor that a pair of companies from Thailand and Japan were partnering with the aim of building an ethane cracker plant in the Marcellus/Utica region (see Thailand & Japan Partner to Build 3rd Big Marcellus Ethane Cracker). It’s not just any pair of companies, either. The companies are Thailand’s largest chemical company, Bangkok-based PTT Global Chemical, and Japan’s fifth largest general trading company/conglomerates, Tokyo-based Marubeni Corp. These are serious players. They were reported to be considering three different locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Since that time we’ve not heard anything–until now. Yesterday, Columbus Business First reporter Tom Knox reported PTT is taking a “big step forward” in the process and has decided on a site in Belmont County, OH. The new rumor is that PTT/Ohio will make some sort of announcement this week…
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Parkersburg Cracker Plant Decision May Not Come in 2015 After All

Last week MDN noted having spotted the first cloud over the Odebrect project to build a $3 billion ethane/petrochemical plant near Parkersburg, WV (see First Cloud Appears for Odebrect WV Ethane Cracker Plant Project). Ostensibly it is the low price of oil that’s causing Odebrecht to reconsider whether or not they will move forward with the project. As we pointed out, “reevaluating” doesn’t mean they’ve decided not to move forward. It just means they’re taking their time. There is, however, a marked change in the “feeling” about this project. Prior to recent comments by Odebrecht the very strong presumption is that the project will proceed. Now? That presumption is no longer quite so strong. WV officials, from both the state and from Wood County where the cracker is due to be built, weighed in with their observation that it’s not the location of the cracker that’s in question…
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First Cloud Appears for Odebrect WV Ethane Cracker Plant Project

Hmmm. Is there a cloud on the horizon over the Odebrecht ethane cracker project proposed for Parkersburg, WV? Until now every single thing we’ve read or heard (or discussions we’ve had with David Peebles from Odebrecht) have indicated the WV ethane cracker project is full speed ahead, pedal to the metal. It was only at the tail end of 2013 that the project was announced (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). The $4 billion project will construct not only an ethane cracker, but several petrochemical plants as well (see Odebrect Cracker Aims to Attract Chemical/Plastics Manufacturing). In fairness, Odebrecht has said a final decision won’t be made until later this year (see Odebrecht WV Cracker Plant Decision “By End of 2015?). And until now, it certainly seemed like this project, even more than the Shell cracker in Pennsylvania, has had the momentum. Then we read this…
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Philly Clean Air Council “Studies” Shell Cracker Plant Impacts

The Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, a partisan, anti-drilling organization, has just issued a so-called Health Impact Assessment (HIA) for the proposed Shell ethane cracker plant in Monaca, PA (full copy embedded below). The so-called HIA has a long list of “recommendations” for Shell, most of which will cost big bucks to implement. The HIA has no official standing and Shell can completely ignore it if they so choose. However, Shell says they’re studying it now and will consider the information it conveys as they continue to evaluate their plans to build a $2-$3 billion ethane cracker near Pittsburgh. Below we have the press release from the anti-drilling Clean Air Council, along with some initial response from Shell…
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