Plastic materials plant expected to bring manufacturing jobs to region

SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – Driving to Pittsburgh on Interstate 376, you can see Shell’s new cracker plant going up on the far side of the Ohio River. Even at 45 miles away, the plant could benefit communities as far as Sharon.

The $6 billion Shell cracker plant near Monaca in Beaver County, Pennsylvania will take the ethane from natural gas fracked from the Marcellus and Utica Shales and produce the plastic material polyethylene.

“That’s the most-used plastic material in the world,” said Dan Brockett, who gave a presentation at Penn State Shenango on the effects the plant could have in the area.

The polyethylene will, in turn, be used to make plastic items. That’s where places like Sharon, Youngstown, and Warren could benefit.

“So we might see things like plastic bag manufacturers, plastic furniture manufacturers, other things of that nature that could locate here because the transportation and shipping cost is going to be so much better,” Brockett said.

Among those who showed up for Brockett’s presentation was realtor Bob Collins, who said a cracker plant would “absolutely” help the commercial real estate business around Sharon.

He remembers what it was like when the fracking boom first started.

“Five or six years ago we couldn’t find enough facilities for these places and I’ll tell you, it brings a lot of people into the area.”

Brockett said it will benefit the region economically.

“When you look at just the $6 billion investment going into that plant, that has a huge ripple effect on businesses and folks that live in this area. But when you look beyond that, the potential of manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation has a tremendous ongoing effect for decades, really.”

The Shell cracker plant will require 2,000 construction workers to build and is expected to be completed in 2020.

Once the plant is built, there will be 600 employees and another 3,000 will be needed to supply the plant.

Ultimately, the total economic impact is expected to be $4 billion a year.