Workers are returning to Shell Chemicals' plastics and petrochemicals construction site near Pittsburgh.
Shell temporarily had halted work on the project in mid-March because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19. At the time, more than 8,000 workers were at the site in Monaca, Pa.
Officials said in an email to Plastics News that the firm began adding about 300 workers per week during the week of May 4, and that it plans to continue to do so. After the shutdown, 300 workers remained at the site. On April 18, officials said that number had increased to 500.
The site continues to employ established procedures to keep workers safe, they added, including temperature screening before coming onsite and lunchroom protocols that allow workers to maintain social distancing by limiting seating to one worker per table.
"If safety protocols continue to prove effective, we will continue to reintroduce workers to the site at a measured pace," officials said.
Shell also is using shuttles to bring employees to the site from nearby parking lots. "Strict social distancing protocols will be in effect for all shuttle riders and passengers will also be required to wear face masks," officials said.
"We will continue to conduct weekly reviews of our health and safety processes to ensure workers are safe, and that we remain in compliance with all CDC and health department guidelines," they added.
When construction was suspended in March, Shell Pennsylvania Chemical Vice President Hilary Mercer said that the decision to pause "was not made lightly," adding that company officials "feel strongly the temporary suspension of construction activities is in the best long-term interest of our workforce, nearby townships and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
Shell began construction in Monaca in late 2017. The 386-acre project will be the first U.S. petrochemicals project built outside of the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana in several decades. Production is expected to begin in the early 2020s.
The complex will use ethane from shale gas produced in the Marcellus and Utica basins to make around 3.5 billion pounds of polyethylene resin per year. The complex will include four processing units, an ethane cracker and three PE units. Most of the resin made in Monaca is expected to be sold to Shell customers within North America.
Shell Chemical is a unit of global energy firm Royal Dutch Shell. The business is based in The Hague, Netherlands, with U.S. headquarters in Houston.