By Shell Polymers on Oct 29, 2020
Global Chemical Strategy and General Manager.
A seasoned professional, Emma has been working in polyethylene for 25 years and is heading up Shell Polymers and its vision to create an unrivaled customer experience in the polyethylene industry
During the Global Plastics Summit 2020, Emma Lewis, Global Chemical Strategy and General Manager at Shell Polymers shared, "We see ourselves as a startup inside a larger company."
Considering Shell Polymers’ parent company, Shell, has been around since 1907, this is an unexpected approach to business. Despite this, Emma emphasized that Shell Polymers "is thinking like disruptor companies like Amazon and Uber."
"We want to provide unrivaled customer experience and challenge the status quo," she added. "We can take an incubator approach and embrace a learner's mindset to help our customers thrive."
Safely Progressing Towards Production Phase
When Shell Polymers began construction of its Monaca, PA polyethylene plant in late 2017, the project was positioned to be the first U.S. petrochemicals unit built outside of the Gulf Coast in several decades.
Digital rendering of the new polyethylene plant site
Although construction on the plant was slowed earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has now resumed. Emma proudly explained how 6,700 workers are now safely working on-site and that the complex is "in the later stages" of construction. Even with COVID-19 putting bumps in the construction process, Shell Polymers is expecting to start production in the early 2020s.
Emma shared, "I'm so proud of the work our team has done to keep going and of our role in the local community."
Leveraging state-of-the-art technology, Shell Polymers will use ethane from shale gas produced in the Marcellus and Utica basins to make around 3.5 billion pounds of polyethylene resin per year across three production lines. Currently, Shell Polymers is planning to sell most of the resin to plastics converters in North America.
Unlocking Competitive Advantage with a Northeast Location
Because the plant is strategically located near the majority of the North American polyethylene demand, Emma explained how Shell Polymers has installed truck silos that can rapidly load resin and deploy it to customers, enabling them to offer same-day delivery to customers within range.
"We'll have real-time rail and transit timing, so customers will know where the product is at all times and so that we can make real-time adjustments.”
Being close to customers will also allow Shell Polymers to reduce emissions through shorter transit and delivery times. The close proximity also helps customers who struggle with low inventory levels and just-in-time manufacturing.
In addition to being close to customers, the site will also have an 85,000-square-foot application hall with industrial-sized film extrusion and molding equipment. This will allow customers to experiment with the resin in Shell’s facility, rather than shutting down production to test on their own equipment. To track the performance of mission-critical equipment, the plant will leverage a plethora of advanced production technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, sensors, and automation.
Keeping the Focus on Sustainability Efforts
With everything that’s going on before plant start up, addressing sustainability concerns remains a key component to Shell's strategy. In her presentation, Emma shared that Shell and its polymer business has a goal to be net zero on greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. She further explains that the most direct route to achieve that is through energy efficiency of its plants. Because of this, the polyethylene plant has "a highly-efficient design" that includes equipment such as a 250 megawatt cogeneration unit.
Alongside lowering emissions, Shell Chemicals is also researching alternative feedstocks such as biomass and plastic waste that Emma said "are driving the circular economy of plastics." As part of its focus on sustainability, Shell Chemicals has a goal of using one million tonnes of plastic waste as a feedstock by 2025.
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