Operations on hold at Shell Polymers plant in Monaca 6 months after launching; town hall held

MONACA, Pa. — Since its launch in November, the Shell Polymers plant in Monaca, Beaver County has faced severe backlash from members of the community and watchdog groups like Eyes on Shell.

“What we’ve seen in these first five months is that Shell is not operating safely, their plant is constantly failing, it is constantly malfunctioning,” said Anaïs Peterson, with Eyes on Shell.

Eyes on Shell reports the Monaca cracker plant has received seven notices of violation from DEP and reported 13 malfunctions since its opening.

“We’re seeing not just a facility that is malfunctioning, but a facility that is not being accountable to the people that it is polluting,” said Peterson.

Shell executives held a virtual town hall Tuesday night to address some of the community’s concerns.

“When you have something this big, with this much equipment, it will be very reliable, it’s designed to be safe, but you have to work through the break in period,” said Shell Polymers Monaca General Manager Bill Watson.

The company told the community that operations at its Monaca plant are currently on pause while it works on its flare and wastewater treatment systems.

Executives also discussed was the use of the plant’s elevated flare for multiple hours on February 13.

“Our goal is to operate as reliably as possible and that’ll minimize the events of elevated flaring, but the use of our flare system is required for safe operation,” Watson said.

Shell leadership also apologized for elevated levels of benzene released from the plant on April 11, while assuring residents that there were no health risks to the community.

“I want to apologize for the odor event and the concern that it may have caused some of the community,” Watson said.

“The monitoring teams that were deployed to conduct air monitoring rounds offsite, in the community, did not note any ongoing offsite impacts,” added Dr. Chris Kuhlman, with Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, who was invited to speak at the meeting by Shell.

Shell did not say when its Monaca plant will begin operations again, but the company did say people will see flaring initially when that happens.

Shell says it will alert the community ahead of time on its Facebook page.

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