Construction is underway at Shell Chemicals’ new $6 billion ethane cracker plant in central Pennsylvania.
Located on the site of a former zinc smelting operation near Potter Township, the plant will produce approximately 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene annually, by breaking down—or “cracking”—ethane molecules in shale gas to be piped in from the overlapping Marcellus and Utica basins.
Site preparation of the project included moving 7.2 million cu yd of dirt, addition of new rail lines and installation of 4,200 steel foundation pilings. The ethane cracker, the largest of four large processing units to be built for the plant, will comprise more than 200 major components and 95 miles of pipe.
Other new facilities will include a 900-ft cooling tower, rail and truck loading facilities, a new water-treatment plant, offices and laboratories. Energy will be provided by a new 250-MW on-site natural gas power plant, which will also contribute to the area’s electrical grid.
Project officials estimate that more than 6,000 workers will be involved in the project at the peak of construction activity. The plant is scheduled to begin production in the early 2020s.