Construction Begins on Pipeline to Shell Ethane Cracker in Pa.
About 350 contractors and employees of Shell Pipeline Co. are at work on the 97-mile Falcon Pipeline, which will feed ethane to Shell Chemicals' cracker plant in Potter Township .
The pipeline, which will consist of two legs, will transport up to 107,000 barrels of ethane per day to the cracker plant once the line is operational next year. Its planned route will enter Beaver County from Ohio and West Virginia to the west and cut through Greene , Raccoon, Potter and Independence townships and then extend southward into western Allegheny County and north-central Washington County .
On Wednesday, Shell Pipeline spokeswoman Virginia Sanchez said crews are clearing the right of way for the pipeline's path, as well as preparing access roads to ensure workers have safe access to construction sites.
In addition, she said workers are stringing pipe and preparing to start production welding on the pipeline. The workforce will eventually expand to include more than 1,000 workers at the height of construction later this year.
Sanchez added that Shell Pipeline has acquired all necessary state and federal permits for construction to start and has secured all necessary easements from local landowners.
Coordination and planning with local first responders and emergency management officials started months ago, and "we expect to work with emergency responders on training opportunities in the near future," she said.
"(Shell Pipeline) has taken significant steps to assess the potential impacts associated with the Falcon Pipeline, and it is confident that the measures it intends to implement should avoid, minimize or mitigate any potential impacts to public safety and the environment in the communities where (Shell Pipeline) will operate," she said.
Sanchez added that additional safety measures will be in place once the pipeline is operational. She said crews will place shutoff valves every 7.5 miles along the route, and will have 24/7 monitoring from a "state-of-the-art control center."
She also said Shell will use drones to inspect the right of way for the pipeline.
Finally, Sanchez offered an update on the company's ongoing efforts with the Ambridge Water Authority to protect drinking water in the vicinity of the Ambridge reservoir.
The Falcon line will be built several miles away from the actual reservoir, but still within its watershed. Despite that, Sanchez said the line will be built 56 feet below the raw water intake line that serves as a crucial piece of infrastructure for the water authority.
That depth is substantially deeper than state regulations mandate.
In January, Shell announced it was taking extra precautions in the area of the Ambridge reservoir after water authority officials expressed concerns about the pipeline being constructed in the area.
At the time, Shell said it would build an emergency response station near the pipeline's intersection with the raw water line. Additionally, Shell pledged to build a backup connection to the neighboring West View Water Authority "to be used in the case of an unforeseen interruption" to the Ambridge raw water line.
On Wednesday, Sanchez said the emergency response station at Pohls Road will be in place when construction begins in the area. No timeline was offered on when construction in the vicinity of the Ambridge Reservoir might take place.
She added that Shell officials continue to work with water authority personnel on finalizing the details about the tie-in to the West View Water Authority . Once those details are cemented, she said work will start on building the tie-in connection.
No timeline was offered on when that might happen.
Sanchez said construction on the Falcon line is expected to be complete by the end of this year, with the line going into service sometime next year.
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