By Shell Polymers on Nov 11, 2020
In an interview with Shale Insights, Hilary Mercer, vice president of Pennsylvania Chemicals & Shell Polymers, shared that the company is now commissioning utility systems at the plant. While it’s still some way from being commercially operational, Shell’s polyethylene plant is making swift progress, despite challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping the Workforce Safe and Construction Progress
According to Mercer, Shell Polymers temporarily halted construction on the polymer plant in March due to the global pandemic. But now, workforce numbers have steadily (and safely) climbed to pre-pandemic levels. To limit the spread and create a safe work environment, Shell Polymers found ways to help protect employees such as implementing on-site COVID-19 testing and having select employees work remotely.
“We had to convince ourselves that we could keep a workforce of 6,000-plus people working consistently through this COVID epidemic before we could even start to think about how that would look in terms of our overall schedule,” Mercer said.
“We've now got to a point where we believe we can keep that number working safely.”Hillary Mercer
By putting team member safety first and making sure a proper plan was in place, Shell Polymers was able to scale production up to pre-COVID-19 levels without endangering the workforce. Having on-site testing enabled the team to get test results in a matter of a few hours and trace any positive cases and alert the people they’ve been in contact with. Social distance measures have been implemented on the buses used on-site as well as the lunch halls and offices. By having a team mentality and working together, Shell Polymers went from around 300 people on-site when COVID-19 first hit to 6,700 workers returning in a structured and thoughtful way.
Continuing to Commission Site Structures
So far, site workers have erected all of the large structures on the site. The remaining work is expected to involve connecting the numerous pieces of the facility via an extensive pipe network running hundreds of miles and building out the site’s electrical scope.
Site workers are also currently commissioning portions of the site’s water treatment facility, which will be the first part of the facility to come online.
Following the water treatment facility, workers will commission the polymer plant’s 250 megawatt power plant and the site’s production units - an ethane cracker and three polyethylene units.
“There’s still a lot of work to do during the commissioning phase,” Mercer said. “But, we’re excited to see the progress unfold.”
Preparing to Tackle Customer Challenges in the Application Hall
The new polymer plant will also house a large application hall that will have industrial-sized units for multilayer linear, low-density polyethylene film, pipe, and injection and blow molding. Shell Polymers will also have a lab dedicated to quality control that ensures the product meets the required specifications, as well as a separate lab for conducting an in-depth analysis of Shell Polymers resin and parts made from it.
The application hall enables Shell Polymers Pros and Pioneers such as Dan Falla, Carl Baker, Elliot Carnevale, and Michael Misco to help customers troubleshoot and experiment with the product without having to shut down their production. As construction continues, the application hall will be crucial to empowering the teams to tackle converter challenges and offer our customers an unrivaled customer experience.
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