Hundreds come out for a piece of Shell pie

Some lined up as early as two hours before doors opened at an Aliquippa golf club where Shell Chemical Appalachia hosted an open house Wednesday. The goal was equal parts listening and managing expectations.

No, Shell has not yet made the decision to build a multi-billion ethane cracker in Potter Township.

Yes, it has bought one property near the site and has others under option.

No, hosting an event where 30 Shell employees, many flown in from elsewhere, answer questions for six hours isn't a sign that Shell is getting more serious about the decision. It's just part of the company's stakeholder outreach process.

Yes, there was a full buffet.

Shell saw hundreds of people — potential business partners came in shirts and ties, hopeful contractors in work boots, some would-be neighbors carried canes — come through their morning session.

The company dispatched employees to man booths with titles such as environment, safety, opportunities. A table near the entrance displayed about 10 jars labeled with potential concerns -- such as air quality, light and noise -- and attendees were encouraged to fill them with tokens to tell Shell which topics interest them most.

Dan Carlson, who calls himself  "Employee 001" of the cracker project, said demolition is continuing at the Horsehead Industries site where Shell may or may not build the cracker. As things progress, Mr. Carlson said power lines will need rerouting, and a new substation will be necessary to accommodate the 250 megawatt natural gas-powered co-generation plant planned for the facility.

One of the first construction projects will be creating the docks necessary to bring equipment and materials by barge, he said.

Mr. Carlson said Shell will choose general contractors who will then be responsible for getting their own subcontractors and suppliers, which is exactly why Greg Keriotis, president of Pittsburgh Tubular Shafting Inc., in Rochester, and Christine Mayernik, VP and regional operations manager for oil and gas with Michael Baker Jr. Inc. showed up Wednesday.

"One of the things we all hope is that when they come, they'll use firms like yours and like mine," Ms. Mayernik said to Mr. Keriotis.

"We have a big production facility we're looking to fill," he said. "We don't want to miss the train."

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