Shell Chemical LP continues with preliminary work that could lead to a massive petrochemicals complex in the Pittsburgh area — but the firm still has not fully committed to the project.
A Shell spokeswoman recently confirmed that the company has built a heavy-haul bridge across State Route 18 in Monaca, Pa., that would allow trucks to reach the proposed site. She also confirmed that Shell will spend up to $69 million to move a water intake site from the Monaca location and build a new water treatment site for Center Township.
The agreement between Shell and the Center Township Water Authority was “mutually beneficial,” the spokeswoman said.
“A decision is still yet to be made regarding the future of the proposed project; however Shell's preliminary site work continues,” she wrote in an email. “The next step involves pre-construction activities to build a roll-on, roll-off dock facility near where the CTWA water supply source is currently located.”
The spokeswoman added that pre-construction activities related to the dock “are critical to the potential construction phase if Shell decides to build the facility, since it will be used to deliver major pieces of equipment.”
The plan calls for relocating CTWA's facilities, including a new surface water intake and new surface water treatment plant. Shell will pay up to $69 million of the projected $72 million cost of the move.
Houston-based Shell first proposed the petrochemicals project in early 2012, citing access to natural gas feedstock in the surrounding Marcellus Shale region and proximity to a large segment of the U.S. population. Products made by the proposed complex would include ethylene feedstock and polyethylene resin.
Shell officials previously have said the project could create several hundred full-time jobs, along with as many as 10,000 temporary construction jobs and numerous related jobs throughout the area.
Most shale-based PE/ethylene projects have been aimed at the U.S. Gulf Coast, where three major expansions will open next year. Several projects proposed for the Appalachian region — including Pennsylvania — appear to have stalled.
Pennsylvania state officials already have approved Shell's Act 2 Plan, which allows the firm to improve the environmental footprint of the site.
“In recent months, much of our visible ongoing work — including the movement of large volumes of dirt from one side of Route 18 to the other — directly relates to major elements of our Act 2 Plan,” the spokeswoman said.
“Contractors are creating a flat, homogenous site for potential construction,” she added. “This and other preliminary site development work is necessary and will position Shell well if we decide to move forward with the project.”
Shell also has posted a job opening on the LinkedIn web site for a position described as technical service team lead polyethylene for Pittsburgh.
“Posting positions prior to making a final decision to proceed with a proposed project is routine,” the spokeswoman said. “It's no guarantee of future employment; however we aim to redeploy individuals within Shell to the extent we are able.”