The (Long) Timeline for Building an Ethane Cracker Plant

An article in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review calls attention to what MDN pointed out yesterday about the Shell CEO comment that a decision on whether or not to build an ethane cracker plant in Appalachia is “years away” (see this MDN story). However, the T-R article adds some interesting information from Shell’s competitor Chevron about how many ethane cracker plants the region can support, and how long it takes to build a plant once the decision is made:

Cheap natural gas and ethane from shale drilling have fueled the growing interest and can support five new U.S. plants, Mark Lashier, an executive vice president at Chevron Phillips, said at CERAWeek, according to Bloomberg News. Each will cost $5 billion to $6 billion and take more than a decade to build, he said.*

So if it takes another two years to make a decision on “go/no go,” and then if a “go” decision is made, another 10 years to build it—sure looks like it’s going to be a while before we see the economic benefits from such a plant. Oh the jobs and money spent to build the plant will be very welcome, make no mistake! But the real benefit will be once the plant is operational and other businesses spring up around it, multiplying and amplifying the economic benefits of the original plant itself.

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Mar 13, 2012) – CEO: Shell cracker plant decision ‘years away’