Prove your humanity

Shell says its ethane cracker in Beaver County suffered an equipment malfunction Monday afternoon. The company flared gases at its plant Monday afternoon and evening.

large flame was visible Monday afternoon from one of the stacks at the facility near Monaca, Pa. The company said it expected the flaring to continue into the evening while the equipment problems are repaired.

“The primary purpose of the flares is to enable a safe response to equipment malfunctions and the system is working as designed,” the company said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection said the event is under investigation.

The plant opened in November. As it has come online, it’s had several flaring events, where chemicals are burned off rather than vented directly into the atmosphere. Venting is also done to prevent explosions.

Shell already has air pollution violations

In December, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation against the company after the plant exceeded its yearly allotment for pollution after only a few months in operation. The DEP said that most of those emissions were a result of flaring.

Bob Schmetzer, of the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, said he wants the state to do more to regulate the plant.

“It’s very concerning, and it’s the whole Pittsburgh area,” Schmetzer said. “It’s not just Beaver County, because whichever way the wind blows, those toxic elements are, you know, traveling with it.”

Two environmental groups have issued a legal document saying they intend to sue the plant over its air quality violations. To build the plant, which makes plastic out of natural gas, Shell received $1.65 billion in tax credits from the state.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.