Shell’s Shale Pessimism Signals Worry for Some re PA Cracker

The Shell emotional roller coaster continues to gyrate up and down when it comes to the fate of a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant previously announced by Shell for Beaver County, PA. We knew it would be a years-long process just to make a decision, and told you that two years ago almost to the day (see Shell’s Cracker Plant Actually “Years Away”?). Since that time it seemed at one point like all was lost (see Rumor Mill: PA Ethane Cracker Plant on Shell Chopping Block?). Over the past two years we’ve written dozens of stories, at first it seemed like a sure thing, then it wasn’t, then it was again, then it wasn’t again… you get the idea (see our list of Shell cracker stories here).

According to a Morningstar analyst interviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the pendulum has now swung back to the pessimistic side again in light of Shell CEO Ben van Beurden’s comments yesterday knocking U.S. shale (see our companion story today). van Beurden said Shell is triming back on U.S. shale investments this year, “restructuring” those assets (which is CEO talk for selling a good portion of it). Although the ethane cracker will be fed by Marcellus and Utica Shale gas, Shell’s impotence when it comes to turning a profit from shale drilling doesn’t mean they will walk away from a huge petrochemical plant. Such big projects are what they think they’re best at doing. Still, van Beurden’s comments have at least one analyst wondering if the PA cracker plant is now down the list of Shell’s priorities…

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