Shell Chemicals is continuing to bring workers back to its plastics and petrochemicals construction site near Pittsburgh.
Shell now has around 4,000 workers on site in Monaca, Pa., a company spokesman said in an Aug. 4 email to Plastics News. That's about half the number that were working there before most work was stopped in mid-March over concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
After the shutdown, 300 workers remained at the site. Shell began adding about 300 workers per week during the week of May 4.
"We continue to add workers at a measured pace, with decisions made on a weekly basis, as conditions allow," the spokesman said. He added that as Shell adds workers, the facility's testing lab "is providing site leaders with a valuable tool that is helping the site to protect worker safety and manage COVID-19 challenges."
All workers newly joining or rejoining the workforce undergo reorientation training that includes an on-site COVID-19 test required to gain badge access. To date, the site's testing lab has conducted more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests, with about 1 percent of those tests coming back positive.
There are 14 confirmed active cases among the workforce at Monaca, the spokesman said. Twenty-one site workers are confirmed to have recovered from COVID-19 and have been cleared to return to work, he added.
Shell continues to follow and enforce COVID-19 guidelines as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Those include social distancing, mandatory masks, sanitizing stations, temperature screening, and lunchroom protocols that use tables with plexiglass dividers with only two workers per table.
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.