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USA: Shale Gas/Engineering Shale Fuels Megaplants in the US: Shell and PTT Go Ahead with Cracker Projects

| Editor: Dominik Stephan

Cracker projects in the US move North: Currently, five domestic and foreign companies announced plans for new petrochemical plants along the Ohio river in the heart of America’s shale gas economy. The race is on – who will be the first to bring a megaplant on-stream?

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Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC (Shell) has taken the final investment decision to build a major petrochemical complex, comprising an ethylene cracker with polyethylene derivatives unit, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Main construction will start in approximately 18 months, with commercial production expected to begin early in the next decade.
Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC (Shell) has taken the final investment decision to build a major petrochemical complex, comprising an ethylene cracker with polyethylene derivatives unit, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Main construction will start in approximately 18 months, with commercial production expected to begin early in the next decade.
(Source: Shell)

Thai oil and gas giant PTT continues with its ambitious cracker program in Ohio: The site for the proposed multi billion dollars program is currently cleared and an old idled power plant at the site in Mead Township on the banks of the Ohio River is being demolished. Powerplant owner First Energy says that no transactions or purchase agreement between First Energy and PTT have been made while a local economic development organization states that the Thai company has at least one purchase option.

The new cracker, which shall convert gas based ethane from the Marcellus and Uttica shales in Ohio into Ethylene, a basic petrochemical feedstock. Currently, both Fluor and Bechtel are working on feasibility studies and a front-end engineering concept for this megaproject. A final decision is expected for late 2016, after which construction works could take about three years. The Ohio cracker project is a basic cornerstone of PTT’s global strategy shift towards more downstream integration, market insiders believe.

Up to now, most petrochemical projects were built along the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Yet now, company’s tap into the shale rich Ohio-region with five cracker projects announced already. Apart from PTT, also Braskem plans a new multi-billion dollar site in Wood Country, West Virginia. Also Aither Chemicals and Appalachian Resins announced plans to use Marcellus based shale gas, but have since put their plans on hold.

One project that could have a massive impact on Americas ethane markets is Shell’s propose six billion dollar cracker along the Ohio River in Beaver County, Pensylvania. The Dutch based petro-giant has since delayed the final decision, yet already begun with earth movings and site preparations. The proposed cracker megastructure is currently the farthers down the road, followed by PTT’s.

While it is unclear which amount Aither Chemicals or Appalachian Resins have already invested, the ongoing activities along the Ohio region underline the industry’s commitment to shale-based ethane cracker projects. As PTT is rumoured to spend around US $ 100 million in engineering studies, proofs of concepts and preparations, it is highly likely that the site will be build if the gas market des not see dramatical changes. Appalachian Resins stated to wait for the final decision for Shell’s Beaver County project before going ahead with their relative small 15,000 b/d facility.

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