Questions and Answers
Learn more about the Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals/Shell Polymers Monaca petrochemical facility under construction in Monaca, PA. The facility with produce polyethylene once operational in 2022
Frequently Asked Questions
Site and Operation
How large is your site?
The location of our future operating site is 386 acres.
When do you anticipate you will be operational?
We expect to be operational in 2022.
Can you be more specific about the target date for full operation?
We are not able to provide a more specific date than 2022 at this time. For projects of this size and magnitude, there are a number of factors that may potentially impact timing. With this in mind, fluidity is built into the schedule, and we will keep the community apprised as we move closer to realizing start-up.
Why did you choose to locate in Monaca?
The facility is located within 700 miles of 70% of our customer base and is close to state and interstate highways, the Ohio River, rail lines and Pittsburgh International Airport.
Environmental – (Soil, Noise, Pellets, Water, Light, Climate)
We live directly across the river from the plant. We are concerned about noise and safety. Also, will the plant be expanding across the river at all?
Ensuring our activities fall within regulatory and safety standards is a top priority for us, and there are a number of measures we undertake to ensure we are meeting or exceeding those standards. The operating noise level is subject to the regulatory limit specified by our home municipality of Potter Township for operational activity. That sound level is equivalent to a household refrigerator. During construction, we have partnered with noise monitoring experts who place equipment within surrounding communities to provide insight and feedback on the efficacy of our noise mitigations on site (such as mufflers on steamblows). To date, we have operated within sound-level thresholds for all activities and will continue to be diligent in our efforts. The plant has no plans for expansion across the river as part of our operating footprint at this time.
Have you taken any before/after soil samples around the facility to verify how much you have cleaned up the site? What are the soil levels of lead, mercury and other heavy metals onsite?
Under the Pennsylvania Land Recycling Program aka Voluntary Cleanup Program, we will be submitting our Act 2 final report to the state for approval this year, which will have the sample data included and be available for the public to review.
Will there be noise when the plant opens? I live just up the road from the plant. How much noise will it produce when operational?
We are required to maintain an operational level of 65db at our nearest receptors for plant operations.
Will you commit to a zero-leak pellet policy? What do we do if we find pellets in the area? Who can we alert?
We have committed to a zero-leak pellet policy and are mandated by our water permit to follow it. We also participate in an industry program called Operation Clean Sweep. Please call our community hotline should you find pellets. We would want to investigate to learn if there are potential breaches in our system. We would also share any notification with the PA DEP and notify area water users through ORSANCO (Ohio River Water Sanitation Commission).
What measures are being taken to ensure water contamination will not take place in the community?
In addition to our water permit adherence and commitment to Operation Clean Sweep (zero pellet loss program), we have enhanced visual site monitoring and river outfall monitoring in place. The river outfall carries all of our water on site that has been treated prior to release.
What is you plan to reduce your light pollution?
We consulted with the community and designed our lighting schematic to meet occupational safety standards while incorporating community feedback. We submitted our proposed lighting plan with our conditional use application in 2016 to Potter Township and have committed to submitting a lighting study by the end of this year to confirm lighting is installed to proposed specifications.
What provisions for climate change, such as the possibility of increased tornado frequency in the valley, have you built into emergency plans for the plant?
Whether in this area or any part of the world, Shell considers possible weather risks and events and their potential impact on facilities, planning accordingly for potential emergencies.
Fenceline Monitoring and Air Quality
Where can I find more information on your Air and Water permits?
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has a website dedicated to our facility featuring press releases, permit approvals and accompanying information.
Will there be training for residents in how to understand the Fenceline Monitoring dashboard being created by Shell?
The dashboard interface is designed to be straightforward and user friendly. Two documents have been created and posted to the Fence Line Monitoring Program website which should aid the community in reading and understanding the data posted. These two documents (Quality Assurance Project Plan and How to Read Passive Air Monitoring System) can be found under the Supporting Documents tab. While we don’t currently have plans to create training, we would consider creating a PowerPoint presentation encompassing community feedback on any challenges that may be experienced in reviewing the information.
How will we know if an action level is exceeded?
Any action level exceedance would be captured clearly and transparently on the tool. Associated field investigations would be published within 15 days of the action level being exceeded. There is a Quality Assurance Program plan included in the documents on the fenceline monitoring webpage providing information on how the fenceline monitoring program works.
What are the potential air contaminants that you foresee the plant emitting?
All projected emission levels may be found on the PA DEP website for our project. Please note the project was required to submit emission levels as if the facility was running at full capacity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The facility would not operate in that manner, and actual emissions are anticipated to be lower than permitted levels.
Are you planning to test air quality?
Yes, we will have continuous emission data (CEMs), along with passive emission data (PEMs), stack testing programs and LDAR (Leak Detection and Repair).
Why haven’t you begun testing yet to provide a baseline for air quality?
We do have PEMs (passive emission monitoring) samples to understand baseline data. The DEP also maintains a sampling station near the Beaver Valley Mall close to the site.
I just moved here. Where do you publish quarterly emissions data? And where can we find data for other similar facilities?
We are required to publish quarterly emissions data that can be found on the EPA’s website.
Are you conducting fenceline monitoring of emissions? If yes, where? How often is the data uploaded?
Fenceline monitoring, a mix of continuous and passive (a sorbent tube processed every two weeks) monitoring will be conducted for the site. Passive air monitoring began in April of 2022 and will continue through the operation of the facility. Continuous air monitors will upload daily with refreshed data every 15 minutes, and passive air monitors upload bi-weekly. The monitors are located along the perimeter of our fenceline in both downwind and upwind directions.
Why won’t we see air monitoring reports gathered during start-up operations?
We recognize this question was asked in the fall of 2021, when we did not yet have that capability. Out of care for our community and to honor a common request, we opted to commence the air monitoring program in advance of operation. While not a requirement, we launched the program early as we listened to your feedback and value our relationship with the community.
How are you keeping the schools safe from plant emissions? Do you have any monitoring throughout the downtown area and/or schools to ensure safety?
We have over 100,000 points of monitoring onsite, enabling us to detect and address serious operational challenges early and at the source, rather than distant locations.
Where is the spent caustic vent incinerator located onsite?
It is located in the wastewater treatment plant. It is an emission reduction mechanism to control hydrocarbons and prevent them from being emitted – yet another way we incorporate technology to reduce our overall emission profile for the site.
Does the significant increase in tank storage capacity for two types of oil that was shown in your modifications to your air permits signal an expansion beyond the use of this facility as a cracker plant?
It does not. The increase was only an adjustment on the tank size.
Do you have a timeline of when you might be submitting your Title 5? We saw you had extensions granted for your different permits up to 180 days, and in those extensions, you said you were going to come up and operate sometime in the second quarter of 2022. So I would think that sometime near the end of that quarter, which we are in, you would be submitting for a Title 5.
Shell is required to submit an application for the Title V Operating Permit after the PA Department of Environmental Protection completes its Initial Operating Permit Inspections and the Department determines our air sources are in compliance with all conditions in the Air Plan Approvals. Upon the PA DEP’s determination that all our air sources are in compliance with our Air Plan Approvals, Shell is required to submit the application for the Title V Operating Permit within 180-days.
CO2 – isn’t there a better solution than a flare? It’s a waste of the gas and bad for the environment. Most of the CO2 is emitted through the stacks rather than the flares.
The flare is an important safety device and also serves as the single most effective device to reduce our emissions through the entire site. Most process streams are routed to our ground flares and thermal oxidizers, and this process reduces emissions with up to 98% efficiency. The elevated flare is only used as a safety mechanism to ensure the safe operation of the facility. The flare incinerates the hydrocarbons before they can be released to the atmosphere.
How often will we encounter start-up and shut-down flaring?
It is anticipated during the startup of the facility while we bring units online, and operationally during unit shutdowns and turnarounds.
When will stack testing begin?
Stack testing for the cogen unit is complete and we will complete additional stack testing as other units come online.
What does flaring on the site mean to residents living around the plant?
On a day-to-day basis, you may notice a very small pilot light in our elevated flare and ground flares (our high-pressure system flares on the west side of our site). They are currently lit and not commonly visible. We don’t anticipate flaring to be a regular occurrence and will do everything we can to limit inconvenience to the community and interruptions in our operations with flaring activity. Please note if you do see flaring on occasion, it is a safety mechanism designed to ensure continued safe operation of the facility.
Will the community be notified in advance, or after, an abnormal flaring event?
The community will be notified in advance of any planned flaring event on our Facebook page (Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals). In the event of an unplanned flaring event, the community will be notified once we identify the cause of the need to flare and will share that with you.
What chemicals are being released during flaring? What are the potential contaminants?
Chemicals and components potentially released during flaring may include small amounts of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. For further information, please refer to our air permit on the PA Department of Environmental Protection website.
Is this a new flaring process, or has this exact process been done before? What are the potential safety concerns during the process of flaring for residents specifically in regard to air pollution?
The flaring process is a routine process performed throughout the industry and is permitted by the PA Department of Environmental Protection. More information on our air permit.
Is it technically possible to capture emissions instead of flaring excess material? Why can’t the hydrocarbons burned in the flares be captured, sent to other users, and used as fuel for other energy needs?
The flare is designed to combust, and thereby greatly reduce, emission levels.
Will the community gain access to the flare camera video feed?
The flare camera video feed is purposed for the facility’s internal use and monitoring.
Cooling Water Tower Passivation
In regard to the Cooling Water Tower passivation incident, are there any health concerns for the community and how quickly will residents be notified of adverse events?
Based on the data available, the Cooling Water Tower passivation activity did not pose any health concerns for the community. Once we became aware the source of the odor was originating from our facility, we notified the regulatory authorities, launched an investigation, and notified the community on our Facebook page. Residents will be notified of events that could pose a notable off-site impact via our Facebook page Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals. If the event is of a serious nature, Beaver County Emergency Services would be contacted by our emergency services team so residents could be notified through reverse 911 mass notification if necessary.
What is the exact method of communicating if something should go wrong – with the “maple syrup odor” incident, locals had to find out via newspaper article many days later?
When preliminary patrols indicated the odor may potentially be originating from our facility, we launched an investigation. Once it was confirmed the odor was produced through our passivation process, we shared those investigation findings with the community. Based on the available data, it was determined there were no health impacts to the community. In the event an unforeseen incident on site may potentially pose health impacts to the community, Beaver County Emergency Services would be contacted and would issue a mass notification reverse 911 alert to the community if necessary.
Sulfuric Acid Spill
There has been some variation in the story with what happened with sulfuric acid spill on March 19th - what kind of sulfuric acid was it? Whether it is concentrated, fuming, dilute, or 6 molar makes big difference in the toxic effects and environmental effects that it has.
Shell Polymers uses concentrated Sulfuric Acid between 95% and 98%. The Sulfuric Acid is not dilute, is not 6 molar and does not fume.
We hear that you had 2,500 gallons of Acros sulfuric acid from the cleanup. But there is no mention of what happened to the sulfuric acid from the cleanup. I think your wastewater permit allows you to dispense things between the pH of 6 and 7 and sulfuric acid solution would be more acidic than that. So wondering how it was disposed of?
Shell Polymers is not currently using the brand “Acros” Sulfuric Acid. The Sulfuric Acid was neutralized and removed from our site and disposed of as a waste at one of Shell’s PADEP permitted waste disposal facilities. Shell did not use the wastewater treatment plant to dispose of the spilled Sulfuric Acid, thus it was not discharged, but rather properly managed as a waste and disposed of accordingly.
We’ve heard your fenceline monitoring might be coming online soon and was wondering if you are going to have any citizen participation in this?
Fenceline monitoring data is available for the general public to view. Any citizen may access this site, review the monitoring reports, and ask questions via the comment box.
Have you done a health impact study regarding the impacts of the Shell Cracker and if so, is it available to the public?
A health impact study for the facility was submitted as part of our conditional use application to Potter Township. It is part of the public record, and available upon request from Potter Township.
What are the long-term impacts to the health of local residents?
The site is among the most stringently regulated of its kind in the United States and must adhere to state and federal guidelines on air emissions and water usage, which are designed to be protective of human health.
Steam Blow Impacts
How will you keep the steam from settling on the Ohio River Bridge and icing over the roadway during the winter months?
The steam blows are very localized, producing a minimal amount of tonnage of steam per blow. The larger steam blows in November and December were most voluminous and they are now complete.
Safety and Emergency Contacts
Does Shell require Covid vaccination of all employees to protect the community?
Vaccinations wouldn’t be required but are encouraged and offered by a local provider. Flu vaccinations are available as well.
Have you educated local fire departments that will be called upon to extinguish a potential fire on Shell’s site about the nature of those fires, the chemicals that might be involved, and the health risks?
We have an onsite fire department dedicated to and equipped for responding to site emergencies. In the event additional services may be required, Beaver County Emergency Services would be contacted to notify local departments in its mutual aid system, if necessary, based upon the resources requested.
How quickly can the river valley around Shell be evacuated in an emergency? What emergency procedures have you worked out with surrounding communities when there is a large toxic emission event, fire, or explosion?
We understand residents may be asking this question based upon historic experiences with other types of industrial facilities in the area who fall under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Our facility does not fall under this same response framework. In the unlikely event of an emergency requiring an evacuation, we would be in communication with Beaver County Emergency Services who would make a determination to activate their reverse 911 mass notification system if needed.
In the event of a concern or question about the facility, is there a direct contact number or email available?
Yes. If you have a question or concern, please don’t hesitate to contact us via our email address at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number 1-844-776-5581, Facebook Messenger Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals, or through our webpage www.shell.us/poly-e
Falcon Ethane Pipeline
When will ethane begin to be transported through the Falcon Ethane Pipeline, and is it complete?
The Falcon Ethane Pipeline is complete and was safely filled with ethane (commissioned) in early October. Once the plant is operational, it will serve as the sole supplier of ethane to Shell Polymers Monaca. The 97-mile pipeline system connects three major ethane source points in Pennsylvania and Ohio (Houston, PA; Scio, OH and Cadiz, OH) with new and reliable infrastructure from the rich gas portions of the Marcellus and Utica shale reservoirs.
Where can I find out more information about Shell’s Ethane Pipeline and review FAQs?
Specific information about the Falcon Ethane Pipeline may be found on the Shell Pipeline Website.
Community Meeting Technology
I’m having trouble connecting to your Virtual Meeting.
We’re sorry to hear you experienced challenges while trying to connect to the Virtual Meeting. Please know a recording of our virtual meetings is available on the homepage of our community website www.shell.us/poly-e. You can also ask questions after watching the recording by emailing us at email@example.com.
When you have a community meeting, on the iPad it’s difficult to see the full screen with the Q&A box part on it. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you for your feedback. We checked with our technology team, and they recommend participating via computer rather than tablet or smartphone if you plan to join online. In this way, your screen will provide the best user interface experience for the meeting.
Questions about Rail
Are there combustible materials that will be transported on rail cars which could pose a threat to nearby civilians in the event of a derailment or crash?
We will receive hydrocarbons that we will use in our processing units, as well as ship some of our liquid hydrocarbon byproducts by rail. We will comply with Federal Railroad Authority and Department of Transportation requirements for shipment of materials and hazardous goods. We also have a comprehensive emergency response plan and partner with CHEMTREC for any hazardous material response required offsite 24/7, as well as a dedicated internal team for incident response.
What percentage do you expect to ship PE out on rails vs. trucks?
The plant is designed to ship 100% of the material by rail with truck shipments being more tailored to individual customer needs and requirements.
Is Hank the Tank Electric? If not, why?
“Hank” and the rest of our fleet are diesel locomotives. We have had initial discussions with vendors who provide electric locomotives and are interested in partnering to develop the technology further, however we need to ensure these electric locomotives are safe and reliable enough to support our operations before committing to transitioning fuel technologies. Shell continues to engage locomotive manufacturers and support the diesel energy transition. However, the technology required to support LNG locomotive operations at the level needed for our site is still being developed.
How much additional noise should we expect when rail operations begin?
Rail operations have been actively ongoing for several years at the site as we have constructed the facility and built the railyard. Most recently we have been bringing in ballast (rock) rail cars to support the final completion of the rail tracks on site and our initial infill of hopper cars to support our commissioning activities. Later this summer as the facility comes online the railyard will begin operating 24/7/365 to support our operations with approximately 80-100 railcars (hydrocarbon and hopper) a day.
Noise is predominately created by the movement and switching of railcars which includes the use of horns and bells as a primary safety features fulfilling OSHA requirements. There are speed limits in the rail yard to ensure safe and controlled operations but also to minimize noise. For smaller movements we will utilize trackmobiles which are smaller, lighter, and have a lower overall noise profile. We have undertaken noise sampling and are conducting technical analysis for further improvement opportunities.
Plastic to Asphalt
Did you examine the microplastics emitted by the plastic road?
We certainly examined microplastics as part of the process. The additive we use is derived from previously used plastic and it is catalytically depolymerized into a wax. The wax is fully incorporated into the bitumen mix and does not release microplastics.
Does the use of the plastic asphalt additive reduce the use of petroleum-derived asphalt products (per mile of roadway, for example) or does it merely increase durability and therefore more petro product?
The additive does decrease the amount of liquid product required to bind the product together. When you add the product to the bitumen binder it becomes thinner and flows more easily, so it takes less to become same amount of aggregate and requires less heating as well. There is also a reduction in hydrocarbons in the process due to this feature.
How many jobs will there be for your operational plant?
Where can I learn more about any open positions?
Find employment opportunities at Shell, including the Monaca plant, on the Shell USA Careers website. Please enter “Monaca” as the site location.
What kind of financial impact will this plant bring to the area in the future?
Shell does not conduct its own economic impact analyses. However we recently commissioned Robert Morris University to perform an economic impact analysis. Shell did not participate in the research. The analysis was performed entirely with publicly available information and could be replicated by others.
Additional Questions on Other Topics
How and where are the catalyst chemicals used to initiate the chemical reaction stored?
Catalyst chemicals are stored in a customized building designed to be protective of this material.
My company provided torque tools for the construction process through Bechtel. How do I get my tools considered for maintenance activities, load out, and rail car repair as well as critical applications?
If your company is interested in contracting our supplying with Shell Polymers, please visit the supplier portal at https://www.shell.us/business-customers/shell-polymers/grow-with-shell-supplying-and-contracting-with-shell-polymers.html. Once on the portal page, you will be apply to provide information about your company and register your interest in being considered as a supplier.
How many of the permanent workers who have been hired are from Beaver County?
At this time, we don’t have the exact number of Beaver County workers onsite as one of our measured statistics, though will work on obtaining that information for you! Hiring from the local community is important to us. We made a $1M investment to create the Shell Center for Process Technology at the Community College of Beaver County to support training for workers interested in working with us or at other sites as process technologists. We’ve also supported individual students in that program with scholarships.
What work have you undertaken as part of your Cogen (Cogeneration) Unit Commissioning?
Throughout the summer, we conducted steam blows on piping associated with our Cogen Unit. Steam blowing cleans the piping and prepares it for eventual service. In July, we delivered electricity to the PJM Wholesale grid from each of the Cogen’s three units for the first time. Once the site is fully operational, the Cogen will provide electricity for the facility and export about 1/3 of its power (approx. 80 megawatts) to the grid on a typical operational day.
What savings will be realized with the cogeneration facility?
That’s a great question! Thank you for asking, and we will work on obtaining that answer for you. Our cogeneration facility will produce over 80 megawatts of power when operational – enough to power 55,000 homes in the area in additional to supporting our operations.
Will the plant be landscaped as seen in the May 2021 Community Meeting photos?
The plant will be landscaped according to requirements set forth in the Potter Township Conditional Use Agreement for the construction of our facility.
Do you have a timeline on the bus traffic? When will it begin to decrease?
You may be noticing a decrease in busing activity now as our volume of workers onsite decreases as we move toward the operation phase from the construction phase of the project.
Once construction is complete, will you be offering tours for residents, local communities, or groups?
We appreciate your query. While at this time we are not offering in-person tours and don’t currently have plans for tours at the start of operation, we would be happy to talk with you about potentially offering your group a virtual tour. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your expression of interest.