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Shell’s cracker plant
> Monaca, Pa. — The 386-acre property
> The plant that Royal Dutch Shell is building about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh
It’s now under construction and is expected to create some 6,000 construction jobs,
the company says. Commercial operation is due to begin “early in the next decade” and will employ about 600 people permanently.
The operation is due to make 1.6 million tonnes a year of ethylene, which is used in products ranging from food packaging to automotive parts.
> When completed, the facility will be fed by pipelines stretching hundreds of miles across Appalachia. It will have its own rail system with 3,300 freight cars. And it will produce more than a million tons each year
> It has been about 15 years since hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, took hold in Pennsylvania, which sits atop the huge gas reserve of the Marcellus Shale. But natural gas prices have collapsed and profit must be found elsewhere, namely the natural gas byproduct ethane, which is unleashed during fracking and can be made into polyethylene, a common form of plastic.

> The plant Ms. Mercer has come here to build is “as big as you get,” she said. When finished, Shell’s cracker plant — named for the chemical reaction of “cracking” gas molecules into the building blocks of plastic — will consume vast quantities of ethane pumped from wells across Pennsylvania into an enormous furnace. The superheated gas is then cooled, forming solid pellets about the size of arborio rice. The process takes about 20 hours.
> Plastics is also solving a challenge for the state’s fracking industry. The western part of the Marcellus Shale produces not just methane gas that is used for heating homes and cooking, but also so-called wet gases like ethane.

Ethane has a higher energy level, measured in British thermal units, or BTUs, than methane.
There are regulatory limits on how many BTUs can be safely used in homes and businesses.
So, much of the ethane is stripped out of the gas before the methane is shipped.
Plastic production is one of the few viable uses for the ethane, and without it some fracking executives say they would not be able to operate many of their wells.


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I saw an ad recently for one of the synthetic motor oils and they said it was made from natural gas -didn't know you could process a gas and make a viable liquid/solid like that. When I was in ND in the early 80s, we were going the opposite route - converting cheap dirty lignite coal into synthetic natural gas - much cleaner burning.
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