Shell Ethane Cracker Plant Update
Penn State Beaver Campus – Sept 18, 2014
Shell arranged to hold another in their series of community outreach meetings on Sept 18th, this one focused on environmental and safety issues.
Shell’s Barbara Blakely – Director of External Affairs for Ethane Cracker Project (Intro)
Shell’s Randy Armstrong – Environmental issues for Ethane Cracker Project
Shell’s Bert Garcia – Safety and security issues for Ethane Cracker Project
Anthony Pizon, MD –Chief of the UPMC Division of Medical Toxicology in Pittsburgh, PA
Wes Hill – Director of Beaver County’s 911 Emergency Response Center in Ambridge, PA
Barbara opened the meeting by reminding how excited she is about the potential Ethane Cracker Project. They are still envisioning 10,000 construction workers for 2-3 years, an operating staff of 400, and thousands of indirect jobs (sub-contractors, hospitality and entertainment. Shell has assembled a great team to develop the details and assess the economics for the project.
Work on removing all the buildings and equipment from the old zinc smelter site continues and should be complete within a few months. No decision is eminent on the go / no go decision but they want to keep the public updated on their efforts. An environmental permit application was filed this summer with PA DEP along with a request to the US Army Corps of Engrs to build a barge dock at the site.
Public hearings will be scheduled to gather residents’ input and final decisions are many months
Randy said that the 700 page environmental permit application lists the worst case emissions, they expect the actual amounts to be considerably less but they won’t have that data until the plant is built and operated.
Since the plant is much different than the previous zinc smelter, there will be no emissions of heavy metals, lower amounts of SO2, CO and NOx, but more VOCs. Dr. Pizon concurred with Randy’s comments.
Safety & Security
Bert talked about the safety and security issues. Shell would hire a general contractor to do the detailed design and construction of the plant. The firm would likely hire local employees and sub-contractors to assist them. Shell’s contract will require that everyone at the plant receive appropriate safety training and follow standard industry practices and OSHA standards.
The site will be secure with a fence and limited access. Everyone on site will have an ID badge. The plant will have its own fire department with foam trucks to respond to most any fire situation. There will be a cooperative agreement with local fire departments for mutual assistance in the event of a large incident either at the plant or elsewhere. Wes Hill said he has had some discussions with Shell about emergency response issues and is comfortable with the situation.
Plant operators will be trained to respond appropriately to various abnormal or hazardous situations. The plant will be designed to be fail-safe, if power is shut off to a section of the plant, the equipment and process inventory will cool down to a safe level and the cracking reactions will stop.
There is some plans for disturbing wetlands on the site and some regional offsets will be purchased as required by state and federal law. Similar offsets will be purchased for the additional VOC.
There were only about 50 people in the 300-400 seat auditorium. Someone said the afternoon session audience was larger and more lively.
Q. What happens to these pollutants, do the continue to accumulate in the air?
A. No, all the VOCs, CO, SO2 and NOx are eventually broken down by sunlight and the oxygen in the
Q. The environmental permit application mentions an incinerator. Is there potential to form toxic
chemicals such as dioxin during the incineration process?
A. No, the incinerator mentioned is more like the catalytic converter on your car, it will remove small
amounts of VOCs from the furnace flue gas before it is vented to the atmosphere.
Q. Could emissions be captured and used elsewhere or sold?
A. The design maximizes the capture of emissions, remaining concentration will be very dilute, not much left to capture.
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