Orlando, Fla. — A familiar name is coming back to the plastics market: Shell Polymers.
The Shell Chemicals unit of global energy firm Royal Dutch Shell had exited most of its plastics businesses in recent years, but the Shell name is returning in a big way in the form of a massive petrochemicals complex that the firm is building in the Pittsburgh area.
The project will be the first U.S. petrochemicals project built outside of the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana in several decades. It will take advantage of low-priced natural gas feedstock that's been developed in the Appalachia region. Natural gas for the project will come from the nearby Marcellus and Utica shale regions.
When completed, the Shell project will include 3.5 billion pounds of annual polyethylene resin capacity.
The firm was at NPE2018 working to re-establish its brand in the world of plastics.
"We're looking to develop customer needs and relationships," said Michael Marr, business integration lead, in a May 8 interview at the show. "What we like about the project is its closeness to both feedstock supply and the customer base."
Production at the site is expected to begin in the early 2020s. It's expected to produce both high and linear low density PE. Resin made at the Pittsburgh location mostly will be sold into the domestic market, Marr said.
He added that the location "will give us a competitive advantage vs. competitors." Seventy percent of PE resin buyers and makers of end use products are within a 700-mile radius of the Pittsburgh site, Marr said.
Construction crews moved 7.2 million cubic yards of dirt to get the 386-acre site ready for physical construction, which began in November. The project will create 600 full-time jobs and 6,000 construction jobs at peak construction.
Marr said that Shell has received "great support" from both state and local governments for the project. He also didn't sound too worried about entering a PE market that already has several suppliers, many of which also are adding capacity because of shale feedstock.
"Buyers always like to have new options," Marr said.