Royal Dutch Shell plc is citing 2022 as the likely start date of its massive petrochemicals plant under construction near Pittsburgh.
"I think it is going very, very well at the moment, and the timeline, think of 2022," CEO Ben van Beurden said on a Feb. 4 conference call with stock analysts.
He added that the project in Monaca, Pa., "had its challenges" in 2020 because of pandemic work limits but now "is back to almost a full complement on-site."
In a March 4 email to Plastics News, Shell Polymers spokesman Michael Marr said that since the project's final investment decision, officials "have stated that we believed the project would transition from construction into operations at some point in the early 2020s."
"We still believe that to be the case," he added. "Currently, we believe the most likely time frame within that broader window falls at some point in 2022."
Shell began construction of the Monaca complex in late 2017. The 386-acre project will be the first U.S. petrochemicals unit built outside of the Gulf Coast in several decades.
The complex will use ethane from shale gas produced in the Marcellus and Utica basins to make around 3.5 billion pounds of PE per year on three production lines. Most of the resin made in Monaca is expected to be sold to customers in North America. The site also will have an 85,000-square-foot customer innovation center with film extrusion and molding equipment.
Most work at the site was stopped in March 2020 but began resuming in May. In October, Shell officials said almost 7,000 workers were at the site. They more recently have said that work at the site is about 70 percent complete.
In a Feb. 12 post on the Shell U.S. website, officials said that the firm's construction team recently handed off the control building to the Shell Polymers production operators in Monaca.
"We're getting that much closer to starting plant activities and bringing things fully online," Utilities and General Facilities Production Supervisor Kristi Jones said in the post. Officials added that operators arriving for their first shift "is another breakthrough to the industry that the Shell Polymers polyethylene plant is progressing closer to startup."
Officials also said in the post that the operators' first shift "is the rewarding result of over nine years of work leading up to this moment." Shell Polymers Monaca General Manager Jeff Krafve added that "this is the control building that will bring the entire plant to life and realize our aspirations for this site."
Shell officials have said that the plant is located near 70 percent of North American PE demand. The firm has installed truck silos and can rapidly load and deploy resin to customers, offering same-day delivery.
Officials previously said that the site will have real-time rail and transit timing, so customers will know where shipments are at all times and so that plant staff can make real-time adjustments. Being close to customers also will allow Shell to reduce emissions through shorter transit and delivery times, they said, adding that proximity also helps customers who have low inventory levels and just-in-time manufacturing.
Shell Chemical and Shell Polymers are units of global energy firm Royal Dutch Shell. The business is based in The Hague, Netherlands, with U.S. headquarters in Houston.