In a recent edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the front page cover story featured Shell’s Cracker Plant, a plastics facility along the Ohio River in Beaver County, about 30 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh. The fully constructed facility is currently in a testing phase and is set to become operational this year. Shell Cracker will play a prominent role in Beaver County’s economy, but will also have nationwide significance. Once operational it will use ethane from the nearby Marcellus and Utica Shale as a raw material to produce ethylene, a key plastics input used to create a myriad of products like automotive parts and food packaging.
While the Pittsburgh area has been subject to a sustained period of population decline and economic struggles, in recent years those trends have begun to reverse. Driven largely by Pennsylvania’s energy revolution, private sector investment and job creation, particularly as it relates to the production and transportation of natural gas, has ballooned in the surrounding areas. Shell Cracker is yet the latest large-scale investment that is set to redefine the Beaver County community.
The article featured an interview with Helen Kissick, president of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. In the story, Kissick highlights the importance of the cracker plant to the local economy and its impact on business. The feature reads “Helen Kissick, who heads the Chamber of Commerce today, points to a 2021 economic impact assessment by Robert Morris University. The report, commissioned by Shell, estimates the plant will deliver between 240 and 450 jobs on-site for Beaver County residents and 777 to 1,444 jobs throughout the county.”
Further, C&EN includes numbers on the downstream economic benefits to the region, noting the report “estimates that 11,197 jobs will be created in Pennsylvania as a result of the project. It projects that labor income over 40 years, the estimated life of the plant, will be $22.4 billion and that total added value to the state will be $81.7 billion.”
A factor for selecting this location is because it is close to the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations. As a byproduct of drilling and fracking, natural gas companies in the area produce a surplus of ethane. This plant highlights how once again, the natural gas industry has indirectly brought further economic investment and jobs to the Keystone state. This is further evidence that the economic benefits from the production of natural gas can compound over years. And because of this important industry, Beaver County and the surrounding counties will see direct and indirect economic benefits this plant will provide.
When completed, the facility will be fed by pipelines from all over Pennsylvania and Appalachia, broadly.
C&EN also features a quote from one local resident who is pleased to see new investment within her community. Sue Stimmell explains why she supports the Shell Cracker plant, telling the magazine:
“I think it’s good because it brings people to the neighborhood,” Sue Stimmell says. “It’s good for the economy. My son works there with some kind of heavy machinery.” It is a union job, she says, adding that she doesn’t know how much longer he will be employed at the site.
The Shell Cracker plant may not yet be operational, but it is already having a positive impact on the local economy.