architect looking at the cogeneration unit plant

Milestone Moments: Cogen Unit Powers Up the Shell Polymers Plant

The completion of the cogeneration unit gets us one step closer to producing polyethylene.

By Shell Polymers on Jun 30, 2021

We are proud to announce that Shell Polymers has completed construction of its cogeneration (cogen) unit as we take another large step toward completing our plant. The unit converts natural gas into energy and then transforms the energy into electricity and steam that are critical utilities for Shell Polymer’s polyethylene plant. We wanted to take a moment from the excitement of this milestone and talk about what this unit will mean for Shell Polymers, our customers, and our community.

A Major Step on the Road to Startup

When the first blast of steam blows from our cogeneration unit in Monaca, PA, Shell Polymers will be on its way to starting-up. While other milestones have been huge, the completion of the cogen unit is something our entire team is extremely proud of because we’ll be generating steam and power for the very first time – two critical utilities for petrochemical plants. That means we can now begin working toward safe, reliable ethylene and polyethylene production, so we can ultimately supply our customers with quality products. The unit contains three gas turbine generators, three heat recovery steam generators, and two steam turbine generators - creating more than 100% of the power the plant needs to operate. This increases the site’s reliability as it normally does not need to depend on any electricity import from the local grid. The excess electricity created by the cogen unit will be sent to supplement the demand on the local grid and thereby used to power the local community.

Full Steam Ahead

Like much of our plant equipment, the cogen unit is a powerful system that is built to last. The commissioning and start-up of the unit begins with water from the Ohio River and it culminates with our first ever steam blow, a safe and effective method of cleaning our steam systems so they can operate efficiently and safely.

The water from the Ohio River will be filtered and further treated to remove minerals. Natural gas will then be delivered via the Falcon Ethane Pipeline System into the cogen unit to perform the first fire of the gas turbine generators. This will produce high pressure steam to clean the piping after construction is completed. The steam will be continuously exhausted to the atmosphere using temporary piping and silencers until all paths have been completed. Lastly, the cogen unit will be shut down to remove all temporary equipment and then restored for restart and normal operation.

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As with any work we do, the health and safety of our workforce, the environment, and our community is a core value of our business. The noise created by the first steam blow will be less noisy than an airplane flying overhead and the odorless, white steam that comes from the unit will dissipate quickly. In regards to the environment, the plant’s water intake is designed to minimize any impact on the river ecosystem.

With the completion of our cogeneration unit, Shell Polymers continues to progress towards polyethylene production. The completion of this unit signals a landmark event for Shell Polymers and its customers. Having the utilities needed to begin full operations means we can continue on our path to plant startup. We are excited to continue progressing towards full production and will keep you up-to-date on additional milestone moments as we reach them.