Fracking for Plastics

Fracking continues to open up a huge supply of oil and gas in America, and investors are looking to create a new market for some of those fossil fuels, including so-called “natural gas liquids,” close to the Marcellus and Utica shales. 

As a result, companies have begun pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into creating a new petrochemical corridor in the Ohio River Valley and expanding a heavily polluted corridor along the Gulf Coast known as “Cancer Alley.” The wave of construction plans means fossil fuels from fracked wells will increasingly be turned into plastics, petrochemicals, and other consumer products.

This is a DeSmog investigation into the proposed petrochemical build-out in the Ohio River Valley and the major players involved, along with the environmental, health, and socio-economic implications. We'll explore the claims of how clean and safe the American chemical industry really is, health risks for chemical industry workers, the bait-and-switch argument that bills fracking as moving the U.S. toward energy independence rather than plastic dependence, and the groups involved in pushing for and against stronger health and environmental regulations of this industry.

In this series

A sign in Port Neches, Texas, on Thanksgiving, with smoke billowing from the TPC plant explosion in the background. 
A plume from the Texas Petroleum Chemical (TPC) plant hung over Port Neches, Texas on Thanksgiving...
By Julie Dermansky, 30 Nov, 2019
Kalama methanol plant site
A plan to build a natural gas–fueled petrochemical plant in Kalama, Washington, ran into a new...
By Sharon Kelly, 4 Oct, 2019
Shell Cracker Plant
For the past 42 years, the Beaver County Conservation District in western Pennsylvania has hosted...
By Sharon Kelly, 30 Aug, 2019
Steve Schlotterbeck, who led drilling company EQT as it expanded to become the nation’s largest...
By Sharon Kelly, 23 Jun, 2019
Shell's petrochemical and plastics plant in Potter Township, Pennsylvania
Tomorrow, June 6, in Covington, Kentucky, a routine quarterly meeting of the Ohio River Valley...
By Sharon Kelly, 5 Jun, 2019
Plastic jug on a beach
The plastics industry plays a major — and growing — role in climate change, according to a report...
By Sharon Kelly, 15 May, 2019
A slide from a presentation by West Virginia official Michael Graney, who listed "virtually no risk of drilling restrictions" as a reason to bring fracked-gas reliant petrochemical development to the region.
This week, at an industry conference focused on wooing petrochemical producers to West Virginia,...
By Sharon Kelly, 12 Apr, 2019
Marine litter washed up on a beach
A new report traces the life cycle of plastic from the moment an oil and gas well is drilled to the...
By Sharon Kelly, 5 Mar, 2019
Petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia
The shale gas industry has been trying to build demand for fossil fuels from its fracked oil and...
By Sharon Kelly, 28 Oct, 2018
Pipes from the former Bethlehem Steel Plant in Pennsylvania
The petrochemical industry anticipates spending a total of over $200 billion on factories,...
By Sharon Kelly, 28 Oct, 2018
Pipeline explosion
Just before dawn Monday morning, Chuck Belczyk thought a jet had crashed near his home roughly 25...
By Sharon Kelly, 12 Sep, 2018
Shell's ethane cracker petrochemical plant under construction in Pennsylvania
Fueled by fracking in the region, petrochemical and plastics projects in the Ohio River Valley are...
By Sharon Kelly, 1 Jul, 2018