WV Ethane Cracker Plant Rumored to be Back On Again

It increasingly looks like LyondellBasell Industries, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, will buy out/take over Braskem, the largest petrochemical company in Latin America (headquartered in Brazil). Braskem and its parent company Odebrecht, as you may recall, was hot-to-trot to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker near Parkersburg, WV–four years ago. Odebrecht got mired in scandal in Brazil and that put things on hold in 2015 (see Odebrecht Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). But in 2016 it appeared the project may rekindle (see A Pulse! WV Ethane Cracker Project Comes Back from the Dead). Since that time, we’ve not heard much. A rumbling here and there, but not much. Now that LyondellBassell is actively pursuing Braskem, there is once again excitement about the cracker project in WV. MDN has heard from an industry source that if Braskem sells to LyondellBassell, the Parkersburg cracker plant will be a high priority. In fact, an expert speaking at the recent NGL storage hub event in Southpointe mentioned the WV cracker by name as one of three projects that he thinks will get final approval in the next 12 months (see Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U). Here’s news about how M&A deals happening on other continents directly affect our region–how a LyondellBassell purchase of Braskem may indeed reignite the Parkersburg ethane cracker project…
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What Will Convince Investors to Spend $10B on M-U NGL Storage Hub?

One more item to share with you from last week’s second annual Appalachian Storage Hub Conference convened at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe. As we previously highlighted, most of the event revolved around the proposed plan to build a $10 billion ethane storage hub (see Southpointe Event Focuses on M-U NGL Storage Hub). One of the panel discussions addressed the issue of how to attract that kind of money. $10 billion is just a number on paper. How much is that, really? West Virginia is the state most frequently mentioned as the host state for the $10B project. WV’s budget for this fiscal year is $4.3 billion. So the investment needed to build the proposed storage hub project would run the entire state of WV for more than two years! Where do you get that kind of money? And what do investors look for when deciding to spend that kind of money? That’s what the panel discussed…
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PTT Awards Belmont Cracker Engineering Contract to Bechtel

PTT has awarded the contract to build the Belmont, OH ethane cracker to Bechtel. At least, that’s the rumor swirling around. We have to say right up front, this information has not yet been announced and therefore is not 100% verified–but we’ve talked to a highly placed industry source and we believe it to be accurate. Below we offer insight into why we believe this information is accurate, and why PTT has not yet made their official final investment decision (FID) announcement, and when they might do so…
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Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U

Last week the second annual Appalachian Storage Hub Conference convened at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe. As we pointed out in a post last week, the main topic of discussion was the $10 billion NGL/ethane storage hub (see Southpointe Event Focuses on M-U NGL Storage Hub). As big as the storage hub project is (and the news surrounding it), there was even bigger news coming from the event: 3 more ethane cracker projects for the Marcellus/Utica are likely to announce in the coming year! Tom Gellrich, principal of Top Line Analytics, talks to a lot of people. He’s an insider. At last week’s event, Tom shared some of his insights. He said PTT Global will commit to its previously announced cracker in Belmont County, OH, sometime this year. No real revelation there–we’ve been expecting such an announcement for the past two years. That’s one of three. Then Tom said the on again, off again Braskem/Odebrecht plan to build a cracker near Parkersburg, WV is on again and he expects an announcement to that effect in the next year. Wow! That’s two of three. And then Tom teased the crowd by saying there’s a THIRD project bubbling in the background. No details on who is behind it or where it will be located. Tom says to look for an announcement on this third cracker project by this time next year. Bonus: Tom believes Shell will take a hard look at building a new/second cracker right next to the first, after the first is completed (a fourth new cracker?). We have embarrassing riches of ethane crackers! Each one costing multiple billions of dollars to build…
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Shell’s PA Ethane Cracker Plant Gets a Name: Shell Polymers

If you’ve read MDN for any length of time, you know about a $6 billion ethane cracker plant being built by Shell in Monaca (Beaver County), PA–near Pittsburgh. The plant will chemically “crack” ethane, an abundant natural gas liquid (NGL) that comes out of the ground along with methane, creating polyethylene from the ethane. Polyethylene is, in essence, raw plastic. Manufacturers in the region and beyond will use the plastic pellets Shell will produce at the plant to create an unlimited variety products. Shell is a smart company. They’re as much a marketing company as they are an oil and gas producer and petrochemical manufacturer. They know the value of positioning and mind share. We hadn’t thought about it previously, but we always just thought of and called the project the “Shell cracker plant.” The plant now has a name: Shell Polymers. The name Shell Polymers has been around for a long time but had fallen out of use when Shell largely exited the plastics business. With the new cracker coming online in the next few years, it’s time to revive the Shell Polymers name/brand and apply it to the cracker plant, which is how the project was being pitched at the last week’s NPE2018 (formerly called the National Plastics Exposition) in Orlando, Florida…
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PTT Buys Another 300+ Acres for Belmont County, OH Cracker

In yet another very good sign that the proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH is headed for a positive final investment decision (FID), PTT has just purchased another 300+ acres to go along with the previous acreage they purchased as the site for the future cracker/petrochemical project. Last July MDN reported PTT had spent $13.8 million to buy 168 acres at the proposed site for a second Appalachia ethane cracker, in Belmont County, OH (see PTT Global Buys Land for Belmont, OH Ethane Cracker Plant). That site, the former R.E. Burger power plant property (owned by FirstEnergy Corp.), is the primary location for the proposed cracker. However, more land is needed. A deed filed earlier this week shows that PTT has purchased another 300+ acres for $17.5 million from the Ohio-West Virginia Excavating company. Together, both parcels are roughly 500 acres, which is more than enough land for the facility. Until now numbers like $6.5 billion have been thrown around as the total project cost. The number has now gone up–to as much as $10 billion! Here’s the latest good news that it’s looking better and better for a second ethane cracker in Appalachia…
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Still No Deal on Property Next to PTT OH Ethane Cracker Site

Homeowners who live near the location of a possible ethane cracker plant in Belmont County, OH are running out of time to negotiate a deal to sell their properties. Living next door to a cracker plant is not anyone’s idea of paradise. There will be noise, and smells and (yes) some air pollution coming from the plant. Best to sell now before the plant begins construction. However, representatives for PTT Global Chemical which will build the plant (IF it gets built), say they already have all the land they need for the facility (see PTT Global Buys Land for Belmont, OH Ethane Cracker Plant). Not needing the land puts PTT in a good negotiating position. There are 10 homes in the general vicinity of the proposed cracker plant whose owners want to sell. PTT says they’ve offered the homeowners 125% of fair market value for their homes. The lawyer representing the homeowners says the valuations are not accurate. However, it’s far from being a stand-off. There is no malice or vitriol. It sounds to us like both sides think a deal will get done. It just boils down to finalizing numbers. Here’s the latest on real estate for the proposed Belmont cracker plant…
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Penn State to Help Create New Biz Opportunities from Shell Cracker

The Penn State campus in Erie County (called Penn State Behrend) has been tapped by the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to be the “lead partner” for developing business and market opportunities for the state related to the mighty $6 billion Shell ethane cracker–currently under construction in Beaver County. Erie County where Behrend is located is certainly not next door to the cracker, not nearly as close as some other Penn State campuses. So why was Behrend selected? In a word, plastics. “The strength of Erie’s plastics industry and the success of Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering, which offers one of only six accredited U.S. plastics undergraduate programs, makes Erie of particular interest to DCED.” According to DCED’s Denise Brinley, senior energy adviser, “Penn State Behrend can provide critical connections to research support, materials testing and a talent pipeline that will add value to this large-scale petrochemical investment and associated growth in the plastics sector.” Penn State is kicking in a $250,000 grant to their Energy University Partnership for oil and gas strategies, to help prime the pump…
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More of the Same at Final DEP Hearing for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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For three nights in a row this week the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted hearings for Shell’s proposed Falcon ethane pipeline–a 97-mile pipeline system with two “legs” that will feed Shell’s mighty ethane cracker plant now under construction in Monaca, PA. We brought you a report from the first session, an eyewitness account from MDN friend Charlie Schliebs (see Shell Ethane Pipeline Hearing Draws Few Supporters, Many Antis). That session was predominantly populated with antis attempting to paint nightmare scenarios if the pipeline (and cracker) gets built. Last night was the third and final session–in Sewickley. Once again we have an eyewitness account, this time from MDN friend Katie Klaber, former president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and currently managing partner at The Klaber Group and a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Pittsburgh branch). Katie is a consummate environmental professional–someone with a lifelong career in environment compliance and someone who served on the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee of the DEP for more than a decade. She knows a thing or two about projects like the Falcon because she’s seen a thing or two (to borrow from the Farmers Insurance commercials). When the audience realized that Katie was supporting the project (the only one of the first 18 speakers to do so), the hissing started. She and the next few speakers who supported the project were hissed by bad-behaving antis in the crowd, with some Mother F…ers thrown in by an especially outspoken attendee. Nice people, those antis…
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Shell Ethane Pipeline Hearing Draws Few Supporters, Many Antis

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Last night the first of three public hearings held by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection for the planned Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline project was held in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. About 100 people turned up for the hearing, which lasted an hour and a half. No signs allowed. The only people who could speak had to register first. Of the 23 who did speak, 16 of them (including out-of-town movement antis) spoke against the project, while 7 people spoke in favor. The 97-mile Falcon Ethane Pipeline system has two “legs” that will feed Shell’s mighty ethane cracker plant. Shell is not using eminent domain for any of its leases for the pipeline. Every lease is negotiated and signed with individual landowners. Antis, in large part being organized and agitated by radical groups like FracTracker Alliance, are making a concerted effort to block the pipeline, hoping they can in turn stop the multi-billion dollar cracker plant currently under construction by blocking the pipeline that feeds it…
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M-U Could Support 8 Crackers – Why Don’t Companies Build More?

Tom Gellrich, founder of Top Line Analytics–a consultancy focusing on downstream shale gas development like ethane crackers–spoke Wednesday at Kallanish Energy’s “Crackers, Storage & Pipelines 2018” event at Southpointe. He had some interesting things to say. Among them: The Marcellus/Utica region has enough ethane to easily support up to eight ethane cracker plants–plants the size of the massive Shell cracker being built now in Monaca (Beaver County), PA. So far only Shell has pulled the trigger and begun to build such a plant. PTT Global Chemical, based in Thailand, is actively considering (and likely) to build a second regional cracker plant in Belmont County. So the multi-billion question is this: Why aren’t more companies building crackers in our region, given the abundance of cheap ethane? Gellrich had some thoughts on that…
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PTT Global Ohio Cracker Grows to $10B Project w/New Partner

With much fanfare, yesterday a press event was held in Columbus, OH to make an official announcement of what we already know: that South Korea’s Daelim Chemical, a subsidiary of Daelim Industrial, is now a partner with PTT Global Chemical in the Belmont County ethane cracker project. We previously brought you that news on Feb. 1 (see PTT’s “Big Announcement” – Gets a New Partner for Belmont Cracker). OH Gov. John Kasich along with officials from PTT and Daelim held a presser yesterday to officially announce the partnership, but also to announce that PTT has pulled the trigger on buying more land for the project–a positive sign. There was also talk by all three that the size of the project has grown. Plans are now that the project will cost $7.5-$10 billion to build, and it will have the same daily capacity as the Shell cracker now under construction in PA–using up to 100,000 barrels of ethane per day to make ethylene (raw plastic). Disappointingly, there was no “final investment decision” (FID) announcement. However, Kasich said he is “very hopeful” all three will be back, soon, to make an FID announcement…
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PA DEP Schedules 3 Hearings for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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In February, MDN told you the Pennsylvania State Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) had caved to pressure from anti-fossil fuelers with regard to Shell’s proposed Falcon Ethane Pipeline project (see PA DEP Caves to Pressure, Extends Comment Period for Shell Pipeline). Shell is working on an ethane “pipeline system” with two “legs” to feed the mighty cracker plant being built in Monaca, Beaver County (see Shell Working on 94-Mile Ethane Pipeline to Feed PA Cracker). The DEP advertised an official comment period for the project on Jan. 20, giving interested parties until Feb. 20 to file their comments–an entire month. However, one month isn’t enough time for anti-drillers to marshal the faithful to try and sink the project. FracTracker Alliance, an anti-fossil fuel organization, colluded with other groups to put the word out to flood the DEP with demands to keep the comment period open. The DEP caved and extended the comment period to April 17th along with three public hearings (circus freak shows), to give the FracTracker faithful time to mount publicity and legal offensives to try and stop the project. The DEP has just announced the dates and locations for the three public hearings…
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WV’s Northern Panhandle Sits in the Shale Catbird Seat

The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia is doubly blessed. The Panhandle is four counties: Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall. Some add a fifth–Wetzel County. The first four counties in the list sit in a slice of real estate located between Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Panhandle currently produces 38% of WV’s natural gas production, and nearly 70% of its oil production. That’s the first blessing–good rock sits under those counties. The second blessing is the panhandle’s location between PA and OH. On one side, sitting just a few minutes away, is the mighty Shell ethane cracker plant, currently under construction in Monaca (Beaver County, PA). On the other side, also just a few minutes away, sits the proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker site in Dilles Bottom (Belmont County, OH). The second blessing is this: many petrochemical and manufacturing companies will build, even relocate, their operations to take advantage of the raw materials that will come from both cracker plants. And guess where many of them will choose to locate? Yep–right smack in the middle, which is where the Northern Panhandle happens to be–sitting in the catbird seat…
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Ambridge Water Authority Strongly Opposes Shell Ethane Pipe Route

Shell has had pretty smooth sailing with their proposed 97-mile Falcon ethane pipeline project–a pipeline that will feed the mighty $6 billion cracker plant Shell is building in Beaver County, PA. Shell did not use eminent domain but instead negotiated with (paid big bucks for) rights of way along the pipeline’s path. That process continues. There have been some grumblings here and there, particularly from Big Green groups. But all in all, there has been remarkably little opposition–that is, until now. Shell filed an application to build the Falcon project back in October (see Shell Files PA Application for Ethane Pipe to Feed Cracker Plant). On Jan. 20, Shell filed an application for federal stream crossing permits–something the PA State Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) issues (see PA DEP Invites Public Comment on Shell 60-Mile Ethane Pipeline). Because of the stream crossing application, the Ambridge Water Authority (in Beaver County), an organization that oversees a reservoir that provides drinking water for ~30,000 people, is expressing “strong opposition” to the route of the Falcon pipeline. Wait a minute. Didn’t Ambridge know the route back in October, when Shell first filed? Yes. However, the stream crossing permit application reveals details either not in, or not obvious, in the original application–details that the pipeline will go under three streams that feed the Ambridge reservoir. That’s got the board up in arms. In a statement, the Water Authority said, “we will do everything in our power to try and have the pipeline relocated outside of our watershed and away from our main, and only, raw water line.” Whether or not there’s any legitimacy to their concerns, Shell now has a PR situation on its hands–the old “it’s going to poison our drinking water” canard that’s a favorite of those who oppose drilling and pipelines. It will be interesting to see how Shell handle’s this situation…
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Landowners Who Negotiate with Shell Ethane Pipeline Get More $

In February 2016, MDN exclusively broke the news that Shell had begun to sign leases with landowners for a 97-mile ethane pipeline (two branches) to feed their mighty cracker plant (see Exclusive: Shell Leasing Land for 2 Pipelines to PA Cracker Plant). Since that time we’ve tracked any news we could find that reveals what Shell is paying landowners in Beaver County (and elsewhere) for the right to run the ethane pipeline (called the Falcon Ethane Pipeline) across their land. So far, we’ve seen rates as high as $75 per foot, and as low as $43 per foot. We just spotted another mention. An extensive (and well written) article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviews a number of landowners who have dealt with Shell, signing leases to allow the ethane pipeline across their land. The article opens with the story of a couple and their attempt to negotiate with Shell. If you play too hard to catch, Shell might route the pipeline around your land, onto your neighbor’s land instead. But sign too early, and maybe you’re leaving money on the table. It’s a fine line–causing stress and strain. In reading the article we really perked up when we read about Ed Bilik, founder of Greensburg-based Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants. Ed was the first guy to sniff out the eventual path of the pipeline–which he did by knocking on doors to see where Shell landmen had already visited. Bilik eventually got 41 landowners to sign with him, allowing Bilik to help them with negotiations. According to Bilik, “Shell started out offering $40 per foot for the right to lay two pipelines.” Bilik would not say how much his clients eventually got from Shell, but he did say this: “We exceeded that [amount] multiple times,” meaning his clients got a whole lot more than $40/foot when they signed. Here’s a portion of this enlightening article…
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