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Plastics: The New Coal in Appalachia?

Map: Ethane Cracker Plants on the Ohio River

“With little notice nationally, a new petrochemical and plastics manufacturing hub may be taking shape along 300 miles of the upper reaches of the Ohio River, from outside Pittsburgh southwest to Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. . . .

“But there’s a climate price to be paid. Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the Shell plant alone would more or less wipe out all the reductions in carbon dioxide that Pittsburgh, just 25 miles away, is planning to achieve by 2030. Drilling for natural gas leaks methane, a potent climate pollutant; and oil consumption for petrochemicals and plastics may account for half the global growth in petroleum demand between now and 2050. . . .

“IHS Markit calls the Appalachian or upper Ohio River region “the Shale Crescent.” Last year, it reported that the region’s gas supplies could support as many as five large cracker plants, like the one Shell is building. The plants ‘crack’ ethane molecules to make ethylene and polyethylene resin pellets and would be in close proximity to a number of manufacturers that use those products to make everything from paints to plastic bags.

“IHS does see some headwinds, including an international backlash against plastics. It published a report last summer that found that worldwide pressure to reduce plastic use and increase recycling was one of the biggest potential disruptors for the plastics industry and was ‘putting future plastics resin demand and billions of dollars of industry investments at risk.’

FULL STORY published February 25, 2019 via Inside Climate News