By Karl Henkel
Though the Mahoning Valley is out of the running for a $2 billion economic investment, it appears that project is primed to stay in the Buckeye State.
Southeast Ohio is expected to be the destination for a new $2 billion Shell Chemical plant related to drilling in the Utica and Marcellus shales, experts told The Vindicator on Wednesday.
In June, Shell announced the plan for a cracker, which breaks down large molecules from oil and natural gas into smaller ones.
The cracker would process ethane from natural gas to produce ethylene, one of the primary building blocks for petrochemicals, Shell said.
Polyethylene is a raw material used in everyday items such as packaging and adhesives.
The Valley lobbied for the project as early as last summer but could not come up with a complete package that met Shell’s requests.
Shell is seeking a location with hundreds of acres, which the Valley had.
The area, however, does not have direct water port access, said Terry Fleming, executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council an industry trade group.
The water port was reportedly a nonnegotiable requirement.
That’s why experts have pegged Southeast Ohio or Southwest Pennsylvania — locations with direct access to a prime water port, the Ohio River — for Shell’s expansion.
“If I had to guess, it’s really coming down to Ohio and Pennsylvania,” said Fleming.
A spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich declined to comment on economic-development discussions.
Kasich in November flew to Houston to meet with Shell officials. He brought with him letters from legislators, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Avon.
A Shell representative said the company expects to make an official announcement early this year.
Fleming said the direct impact — the infusion of billions of dollars and thousands of new jobs — would be just the tip of the iceberg.
“If you get the facility, you are probably going to attract more than that facility,” he said. “It would be a big deal for Ohio.”