The COVID-19 outbreak has led Shell Chemical to temporarily suspend construction on the massive plastics and petrochemicals site it's building in Monaca, Pa.
"The health and well-being of our workers and nearby communities remains Shell's top priority," Shell Pennsylvania Chemical Vice President Hilary Mercer said in a March 18 statement. "That's an ethos we live by every day, but it's especially relevant at a time when the world is taking drastic measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We're committed to doing our part."
Mercer added that "in the days ahead [Shell] will install additional mitigation measures aligned with CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance."
"Once complete, we will consider a phased ramp-up that allows for the continuation of safe, responsible construction activities," she said.
Mercer also said that Shell officials "are proud of the over 8,000 workers who have committed their time and expertise to one of the largest construction projects in the United States, and the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.
"The decision to pause was not made lightly," she said. "But we 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.
"Our goal is to build a positive, decades-long legacy in the region. That means earning our right to live and work here every day. It also means caring for people. While understandably disappointing to many, we believe this decision honors that approach."
Shell began construction in Monaca, near Pittsburgh, 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.