Hearing will focus on Shell pipeline

STEUBENVILLE — A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. May 23 at Harrison Central Junior-Senior High School on the Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline.

The 97-mile pipeline system is nearing the final stages of the permitting process. Falcon will serve Shell’s Monaca, Pa., ethane cracker, currently under construction.

Officials from Shell discussed the project during a stop at the Herald-Star Thursday.

The pipe will connect the MarkWest facility in Cadiz and the Momentum facility at Scio via 10-inch pipe to a 12-inch main line that will extend 33 miles, crossing under the Ohio River north of Toronto into West Virginia. The line then will run another 20 miles through West Virginia and Pennsylvania into the Monaca plant.

A similar connection will be made out of the MarkWest in Houston, Pa., to another main line, all as part of the Falcon system to feed the ethane cracker. A junction into a 16-inch pipe will feed the plant.

No eminent domain was used to accumulate the right of way for the line, with hundreds of parcels involved in the entire 97-mile system.

Full permit approval is anticipated by the end of summer, Shell officials said, with some prep work possibly beginning in the fall and full construction to take place for about 10 months in 2019. The goal is to have the Falcon system operational prior to the opening of the Monaca cracker.

At peak construction, as many as 1,000 workers will be fanned out over the 97-mile network. Four to six permanent employees will be required to maintain and operate the line.

Virginia Sanchez, external relations manager for Shell Pipeline, said the company will be marking 100 years in business next year.

The company has about 3,800 miles of pipe across the U.S. Shell is not disclosing total cost of the Falcon system.

Trey Hartstern, business opportunity manager for Shell Pipeline, said route selection and negotiating with landowners took about three years.

Permits have been submitted in all three states, and public hearings were held in March in Pennsylvania.

The river crossing will be performed with a horizontal bore about 100 feet beneath the bed of the Ohio River, officials said.

Natalie L. Shearer, senior ecologist for AECOM, an international engineering firm, noted the Falcon system requires approvals from the Pittsburgh and Huntington districts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in addition to state environmental permits and other federal permits. Environmental work included a survey for bald eagles along the Ohio River and bats. No bald eagles were found in the project area along the river, and the project has to adhere to winter tree clearing restrictions to protect bats, she said.

The public comment period on the project ends May 30 in Ohio.

Sanchez said, “If you look at the Marcellus shale and the fact that we’re in a wonderful 700-mile radius of this rich gas environment, as well as the surveys that demonstrate there is potentially opportunity for four or five chemical plants to exist in this area, the infrastructure is important to support that kind of growth.

“This is all locally produced ethane kept local, which is so important to this region. With this project, we are not sending the resource outside the area. It’s all staying here,” she said. “I live here too, and this is huge. This is the first project that you can see the Tri-State Area really having a truly regional economic opportunity in a way that we’ve been talking about for five years.”

Shell said surveys have shown 70 percent of the nation’s polyethylene market sits within a 700 mile radius of Pittsburgh. The raw plastic is a product of ethane crackers and serves as feedstock for factories that manufacture all manner of plastic goods.

Shearer explained that means not just manufacturers but end users of goods are within 700 miles of the Monaca plant.

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