Falcon Ethane Pipeline

Pipeline Permit Scandal Highlights Confusion Amid Push to Build Plastics Plants

Read time: 9 mins
Shell Cracker Plant

For the past 42 years, the Beaver County Conservation District in western Pennsylvania has hosted their Maple Syrup Festival, an annual all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast featuring syrup made from maple trees in a park in Beaver Falls.

It’s a huge event in this county, population 164,742; organizers expected up to 40,000 attendees at last year’s festival, which included a Civil War re-enactment, pony rides, and craft demonstrations like bobbin lace making.

But with the arrival of Shell and its $6 billion plastics manufacturing plant, currently under construction in Beaver County, the conservation district assumed more serious responsibilities than throwing a maple syrup festival — including permitting the fossil fuel pipelines feeding the massive plastics complex.

Study Fills in Missing Data on Homes, Schools, Habitats at Risk from Shell’s Falcon Pipeline

Read time: 7 mins
Aerial view of the future site of the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

At the end of 2017, Shell ran slightly afoul of Pennsylvania state regulators after filing a pipeline permit application to the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that failed to show sensitive environmental areas in the path of its proposed Falcon ethane pipeline. Now, a concerned nonprofit has pieced together the details Shell should have included (and more), revealing hundreds of homes, schools, streams, and wetlands in the path of the fracking products pipeline.

The 97-mile Falcon Ethane project will carry more than 107,000 barrels a day of a flammable plastics precursor to a small town in Pennsylvania where Shell is building an ethane “cracker” facility. In a region poised to be transformed by petrochemical development, this huge plastics plant will superheat the ethane and “crack” it as it manufactures over a million tons per year of tiny plastic beads of ethylene or polyethylene.

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