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Pieces of Pennsylvania ethane plant move through the region

December 18, 2018
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch The Tristen, a Gulf Coast tugboat, hauls parts of a ethane cracker plant on the Ohio River Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, between Kenova and South Point. The plant is being constructed in Monaca, Pennsylvania.

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - Another component of a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant being built in Pennsylvania passed through the Tri-State Monday.

The Gulf Coast tugboat Tristen pulled while a towboat pushed a barge carrying one of many parts of the ethane cracker being built by Shell Polymers along the Ohio River at Monaca, Pennsylvania. Since April, a steady stream of tugboats and towboats has moved equipment assembled along the Gulf Coast and has delivered it to Monaca.

There, they are placed in final assembly for what will be the largest industrial installation in Appalachia to deal mainly with ethane, a natural gas liquid found in parts of the Marcellus and Utica shale region of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Often the equipment is moved with a tugboat-and-towboat combination, with the tugboat pulling the barge with a hawser line and the towboat pushing. Often, the towboat pilot sees nothing ahead but the equipment because it is so large and bulky.

The cracker plant at Monaca will use high temperatures to crack, or break apart, ethane’s large molecules and rearrange the carbon and hydrogen atoms in them to create ethylene. The ethylene will be further processed to create different types of polyethylene pellets. The pellets will be shipped by rail and truck to manufacturers who will use them to make plastic products for commercial and consumer use.

Plans are underway for another cracker plant along the Ohio River. This one would be at Dilles Bottom, Ohio, across from Moundsville, W.Va.

According to published reports from the Gulf Coast, movements of components for the Monaca cracker should continue through the end of next year.

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