Pennsylvania DEP Approves Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline!


Atlantic CoastJim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved permits, critical to the Shell cracker, to construct the Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline.

Following an extensive (underscore extensive) review, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the permit applications for Shell’s Falcon ethane pipeline project. DEP determined that the application meets the requirements of Chapter 105 (water obstruction and encroachment) and Chapter 102 (erosion and sediment control) of DEP regulations.

Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline

The pipeline will run through Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver counties. Falcon, which Shell says they will build in 2019, is a 97-mile, two-legged pipeline system to carry ethane from eastern Ohio and southwest PA to the mighty Shell cracker plant now under construction. The DEP approval covers the Southwest Pennsylvania portion of the pipeline system–about 45 miles long.

The Southwest Pennsylvania portion of the Falcon pipeline will run from a MarkWest processing plant in Chartiers Township (Washington County), through Allegheny County and into Beaver County where the cracker is located.

Below is the notice from DEP. We note they make special mention of Ambridge Water Authority and their opposition to the project.

Following an extensive review, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved the pending permit applications for the Shell Pipeline Company Falcon ethane pipeline project. DEP has determined that the applications meet the requirements of Chapter 105 (water obstruction and encroachment) and Chapter 102 (erosion and sediment control) of DEP’s regulations. The pipeline is proposed to run through Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver counties.

DEP engineers and biologists conducted a technical review of the applications in consultation with three county conservation districts to ensure the applications meet all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. DEP heard feedback through public comment periods and three separate public hearings on the permit applications, receiving input from nearly 1,500 commenters.

“DEP’s due diligence included a robust review which facilitated the public’s participation by encouraging public feedback and access to important information throughout the process,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Comments and questions received from citizens were reviewed by DEP technical staff who requested additional information from the applicant and included conditions in the final permits to ensure the protection of resources.”

Of significant concern to multiple commenters was the proximity of the proposed ethane pipeline to the Ambridge Reservoir and the raw water line from the reservoir that serves the Ambridge Water Authority Water Treatment Plant. The application and permits include appropriate construction techniques and special conditions requiring the permittee to control pollution from construction of the ethane pipeline in the area of the reservoir and other water resources along the pipeline route. In its permit applications, Shell proposed to deepen the horizontal directional drill (HDD) below the raw water line, have a crew on standby in the event of a break in the raw water line, have additional pre-stressed concrete pipe repair joints at the job site, and use other construction techniques to minimize impacts to the raw water line during construction.

There were many other public comments considered during DEP’s review, a number of which resulted in modifications to the applications or permit conditions. DEP prepared a detailed comment and response document regarding public comments on the Chapter 102 and 105 permit applications.

The Falcon Ethane Pipeline will begin at the MarkWest Houston Processing and Fractionation Facility in Chartiers Township, Washington County and travel through Washington, Allegheny, and Beaver counties before ending at the Shell Chemical Appalachia Petrochemical Complex in Potter Township, Beaver County. A separate segment of the pipeline will connect a MarkWest facility in Cadiz, Ohio and the Utica East Ohio plant in Scio, Ohio to the petrochemical complex in Beaver County. In total, approximately 45.5 miles of pipeline will be located in Pennsylvania, and the pipeline will cross portions of southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and the West Virginia panhandle.

Construction and operation of the pipeline will fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Copies of the permit, comment response document, applications, and associated materials related to this project can be found on DEP’s webpage, which has been updated regularly throughout the permitting process.

Editor’s Note: For all our problems, Pennsylvania, unlike New York, still has its basic priorities straight. That’s because we still have a working class, a state government relatively free of corruption and rural voters who offset city counterparts who know nothing when it comes to producing energy. 

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