Low-cost ethane from shale gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica basins will be used to produce 1.6 million tonnes of polyethylene per year at a major petrochemicals complex that Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC will build. The final investment decision (FID) was taken to build the complex, which will be an ethylene cracker with a polyethylene derivatives unit, Shell said June 7.

Main construction on the complex, which will be near Pittsburgh, in Beaver County, Pa., will start in about 18 months. Commercial production is scheduled to begin early in the next decade.

The complex and its customers will be close to gas feedstock and supply chains that are shorter and more dependable than those from the Gulf Coast. More than 70% of North American polyethylene customers are within a 700-mile radius of Pittsburgh, Shell said.

The project will bring new growth and jobs to the region, with up to 6,000 construction workers involved in building the new facility, and an expected 600 permanent employees when completed.