Shell Cracker May Spur $2.3B Upgrade of Locks/Dams on Ohio River

Ohio River Montgomery lock and dam
Ohio River Montgomery lock and dam – click for larger version

You may not think barging on the Ohio River has much to do with Shell’s plan to build an ethane cracker in Monaca (Beaver County), PA–but you would be wrong. The river has a great deal to do with that cracker plant, and Shell’s decision to build its plant in Monaca. For one thing, Shell plans to (already has) built two barge docks and has barged materials into the site for use in constructing the plant. For another, numerous manufacturing plants are expected to spring up around the cracker, like little satellites circling a planet, because they will use the ethylene and other materials produced by the cracker plant. Those manufacturers will also need cheap barge transportation for their products. The problem is, the locks and dams along the Ohio were built in the early Twentieth Century (between 1922-1936). They were updated in the 1980s and 1990s, but truth be told, the infrastructure is past its life expectancy already. If barge traffic picks up dramatically, that old infrastructure will show its age. Since 2003 the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) has had a potential project on the books to study and upgrade the Ohio’s infrastructure. Shell’s announcement may be the impetus to get the USACE to launch its already pre-planned $2.3 billion lock and dam project for the Ohio River…

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