(L to R) Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference; Dan Carlson, general manager, new business development, Shell Chemicals; Iain Lo, vice president new business development and ventures, Shell Chemicals; Beaver County Commissioner Dennis Nichols; Beaver County Commissioner & Chairman Tony Amadio; Beaver County Commissioner Joe Spanik

Shell announced today that it has signed a site option agreement to build a petrochemical plant in Beaver County to process natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. The facility will include a “world-scale” ethane cracker, a facility that breaks down large molecules from natural gas into smaller ones. The location is in Potter and Center Townships near Monaca.

The facility is expected to generate thousands of construction jobs and employ hundreds of people full-time after completion. Shell announced in June 2011 that it was looking to build the plant somewhere in the Appalachian natural gas footprint, but until today it was not known if that plant would be located in Ohio, West Virginia or elsewhere.

Shell said in a statement that it looked at various factors to select the preferred site, including good access to liquids rich natural gas resources, water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power grids, economics, and sufficient acreage to accommodate facilities for a world scale petrochemical complex and potential future expansions.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, called the announcement historic, as it would be the single largest “from the ground up” industrial investment in the region in a generation.

“This project is the natural next step in the development of the market for natural gas in our region, ensuring that more of the economic benefits of this rich natural resource remain here for our residents and businesses,” Yablonsky said. “But today’s announcement is just the first step; we must continue to work together to make this proposed business investment happen.” Check out the YouTube link below for more from Yablonsky on this announcement.

Dan Carlson, Shell’s General Manager, New Business Development, called the agreement an important step for the project. “We look forward to working with the communities in Pennsylvania, and gas producers across Appalachia, as we continue our efforts to develop a petrochemical complex,” Carlson said.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he and key cabinet members has been working with Shell officials for many months to reach this point. “Shell now recognizes what we already knew; Pennsylvania is ideal for this project,” Corbett said. “Not only do we sit atop the richest known reserves of natural gas in the world, but we have a world class workforce, an expansive transportation network including rail, roads and waterways, excellent education institutions and a thriving quality of life here in the Pittsburgh region.”

Tony Amadio, chairman of the Beaver County Board of Commissioners, said he welcomes the opportunity this project represents for his county and the broader region. “We recognize that today’s announcement is just beginning the process of turning a plan into reality,” Amadio said. “We look forward to working together with our federal and state officials and municipal and school district leaders to bring this investment home to Beaver County in the months to come.”

Shell said it will now pursue additional environmental analysis of the site, further engineering design studies, assessment of the local ethane supply and continued evaluation of the economic viability of the project.

In addition to an ethane cracker, Shell is also considering polyethylene (PE) and mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) units to help meet increasing demands in the North American market. Much of the PE and MEG production would be used by industries in the northeast.

Click here to read a press release from the Allegheny Conference and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance about the announcement.

Dennis Yablonsky on the Shell announcement: