200 at meeting on Pennsylvania Shell plant plans - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

200 at meeting on Pennsylvania Shell plant plans

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ALIQUIPPA, PA (AP) -

About 200 people showed up Wednesday for the first of two public meetings to learn about Shell Oil Co.'s possible plans to build a huge new petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania.

The meetings were being held at a county club about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, near the site of the proposed petrochemical plant. Shell officials said the potential project, sometimes referred to as a cracker plant, has moved forward in several ways since last year, but there's still no guarantee it will be built.

Dan Carlson, a Shell general manager, said the company has signed long-term contracts with nearly 10 energy companies who would supply a component of natural gas to the proposed plant. The plant would convert ethane from bountiful Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas and oil into more profitable chemicals which are then used to produce plastics, tires, fertilizer, and other products.

Shell has an option to purchase a 300-acre industrial site on the Ohio River from Horsehead Corp., and demolition of a zinc factory that was there has already begun. But Carlson stressed that's no guarantee the multibillion-dollar plant will be built. In some other states - Colorado, for example - Shell invested tens of millions of dollars in proposed projects before deciding to shut them down.

Carlson said it's hard to predict when the decision on whether to build the plant will be made, but it could come in the next one or two years. For now, the company is happy with the response from local communities.

"We're just really glad to see that there's so much excitement and enthusiasm," he said. "I think people recognize the impact this project could have" on the regional economy.

In 2012, state lawmakers passed - and Gov. Tom Corbett signed - legislation that could give Shell tax credits worth $1.7 billion or more for 25 years, beginning in 2017, if the plant is built.

Shell, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has estimated that a new cracker plant could employ several hundred people, lead to the growth of related businesses and create up to 10,000 construction jobs. 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.