EPA: Ethylene Cracker Plant Could Cause Major Pollution

Tuesday, 27 Mar 2012 06:34 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Shell Chemical’s new ethylene cracker plant, being built in Beaver County, Pa., to process wet gases from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions, could add significant pollution to surrounding areas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
 
Since the potential for pollution is so high, the EPA says Shell will need to use the best-available control technologies to meet air emissions laws, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.
 
Ethylene cracker plants, such as the proposed Shell facility, use heat and pressure to “crack” wet gases — such as ethane, propane, and butane — to make ethylene, propylene, and other hydrocarbons that are used to make plastics. However, the process emits a wide range of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and carbon monoxide.
 
The plant’s proposed location has already been classified as being in “non-attainment” of National Ambient Air Quality Standards, meaning a new emissions source, like Shell, could be required to offset its pollutants through emissions reductions from other sources in the area, the EPA said.
 
Shell announced on March 15 it had signed an agreement with Horsehead Corp to buy a 300-acre property, which now houses a zinc smelter. The site, located about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh, is near several other smokestack industries, along with FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield coal-burning plant, the largest electric power plant in the state.
 
The new Shell plant’s construction won’t start for another two years, and the plant will take four years to build. State and EPA regulators will likely consult with other states where similar plants work to get help on their regulatory practices.
 
Most of the nation’s cracker plants are in the south, near Texas’ oil and gas fields and the off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, most crackers are located near or adjacent to refineries.

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