DEP to hold hearing on air permit for proposed Shell ethane plant

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will hold a question-and-answer session and a public hearing in May as it prepares to issue a key air quality permit for Shell Chemical Appalachia’s proposed petrochemical complex in Beaver County.

The meeting and hearing are scheduled for May 5 beginning at 6 p.m. at Central Valley High School Auditorium in Monaca.

Shell Chemical, a division of Royal Dutch Shell, is evaluating building an ethane cracker on the site of the former Horsehead Corp.’s zinc smelter. The multibillion dollar facility, if completed, will crack ethane and manufacture polyethylene pellets for use in the plastics industry.

DEP said its staff and representatives from Shell will make presentations explaining the application and review process for the permit, which will define limits on the amount of air pollutants the facility will be allowed to emit. The question-and-answer period will be followed by a formal hearing for public testimony on the permit.

Shell has purchased land and taken other steps to prepare the site, but it has not made a final decision on whether to build the project.

DEP published notice of its intent to issue the air quality permit in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday.

As designed, the massive facility will be capable of producing 1.5 million metric tons per year of ethylene, which will be used on site as a feedstock to produce as much as 1.6 million metric tons of polyethylene pellets per year, according to the permit details published by DEP.

The plant will also generate approximately 250 megawatts of electricity to use on site and sell excess to the grid, DEP said.

DEP’s proposed air permit would cap potential air contaminant emissions for the facility at 348 tons per year of nitrogen oxides and 522 tons per year of volatile organic compounds, which are precursors to ozone, or smog; 30.5 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants; 2.2 million tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalents, the greenhouses gases that contribute to climate change; and limit other compounds, including fine particles and carbon monoxide.

To register to provide testimony at the hearing, call DEP Community Relations Coordinator John Poister at 412-442-4203 before noon on May 5. Registration will also be open at the door before the hearing, DEP said. There is no need to register for the question-and-answer session.

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