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About the Appalachian petrochemical project
The proposed complex would be the first major U.S. project of its type to be built outside the Gulf Coast region in 20 years. Locating the facility close to both supply and markets would reduce economic and environmental transportation costs and provide regional plastic manufacturers with more flexibility, shorter supply chains and enhanced supply dependability.
If built, the facility would include
- an ethane cracker with an approximate annual average capacity of 1.5 million metric tons of ethylene;
- three polyethylene units with a combined annual production of approximately 1.6 million metric tons; and
- power and steam generation, storage, logistics, cooling water and water treatment, emergency flare, buildings and warehouses.
Many steps are required to develop a petrochemical facility from planning to start-up.
A petrochemical complex is intricate and typically takes five years or more to build, from planning to start-up. There are many hurdles to clear before we can even make a final decision to build the facility. We need to confirm the suitability of the site, secure additional ethane feedstock (raw material) supply, complete engineering and design work, confirm the support of customers for our products, receive all necessary permits and determine whether the project is economically sound and competitive with alternative investment opportunities.
What is ethane?
Ethane, like propane and butane, it is a natural gas liquid (NGL) found in certain natural gas deposits, including the Marcellus and Utica Shales. NGLs are separated from natural gas and used for a variety of industrial, residential and commercial uses. Ethane is primarily used to create ethylene and would be the primary raw material for this facility.
How would the process work?
The proposed facility would first “crack,” or break apart, ethane’s large molecules and re-arrange the carbon and hydrogen atoms to create ethylene. This is accomplished by heating the ethane to very high temperatures, greater than 1500°F (800°C), in one of the cracker’s seven furnaces. Natural gas and “tail gas” (a hydrogen and natural gas combination from the furnace that is recycled) fuel the process.
The ethylene would be further processed to create different types of polyethylene. Polyethylene pellets then would be shipped to manufacturers to make many of the plastic products we use every day.
What would it make?
Different grades of polyethylene make different types of products:
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) are the raw materials for items like food packaging, film, trash bags, diapers, toys and housewares; and
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to create “stiffer” products such as crates, drums, bottles, food containers and other types of housewares.