Shale gas is fueling an expansion of the Gulf Coast's petrochemical industry, bringing jobs but also renewed fears about air quality. With Royal Dutch Shell considering a site in Beaver County for a cracker facility, The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier went to Port Arthur, Texas to see what could be in store for Pennsylvania.
An ethane cracker in Beaver County would have a major impact on jobs in Western Pennsylvania. But what impact will it have on air quality, in a region that has struggled for decades to clean up its air? The answer may lie in the city of Houston, home to the largest chemical hub in the Americas, and one of the smoggiest cities in the country.
The fracking boom has led Shell to consider building a large petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pa. In Louisiana, the shale gas boom has already led to renaissance for the state’s large chemical industry, where jobs are abundant, yet dangerous.
The petrochemical plant Shell is considering building in Beaver County is similar to one that the company operates in Norco, Louisiana. The town was a battleground over how the chemical industry deals with its neighbors. A key figure in the fight was one very determined school teacher, whose only weapon was a plastic bag.
What is an ethane cracker anyway? These plants take natural gas and convert it into the building blocks of plastic and virtually every chemical that lives underneath your sink. How do they work?
Royal Dutch Shell has been inching forward with plans for an ethane cracker in Beaver County, fueled by the region's plentiful natural gas, since early last year. The Pittsburgh Business Times reports that five major gas pipelines under construction may make those plans obsolete.
The Allegheny Front's Reid Frazier talks with Paul Guggenheimer, host of WESA's Essential Pittsburgh, about his reporting from the Gulf Coast and what Western Pennsylvania could expect from a proposed ethane cracker that would process shale gas into ethylene, a building block for plastics.