Ethane Cracker in Sarnia, Ontario May Hinder Shell Cracker in PA
by Duane Nichols
[Editor's note: It was with great pleasure that I spoke with Duane Nichols from FrackCheckWV. I have been receiving emails from FrackCheckWV.net for several months and always find their information extremely informative and well written. In wanting to make sure our readers are receiving this great information, EcoWatch.org will be highlighting many of their posts on EcoWatch's Fracking Page.]
A recent article by Sheena Martin for ICIS News reports that the lack of infrastructure for Shell’s proposed western Pennsylvania cracker provides an opportunity for NOVA Chemicals to expand its Corunna ethylene facility and displace Shell’s ethane supply. “If I were NOVA Chemicals, I would not want Shell in my backyard,” said Peter Fasullo of consulting company En*Vantage, on the sidelines of the Gas Processors Association annual meeting in New Orleans in mid-April of this year.
According to Peter Voser, the Shell Chemicals CEO, Shell could have a cracker completed by 2017 if it began construction in 2014. There are no ethane cracker plants in the Marcellus region at the present time although Aither Chemicals, an upstart company touting an untried catalytic cracking approach is promoting a plant near Charleston, WV. Surplus ethane from the so called “wet natural gas” of western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia is too valuable to burn because it can be cracked into ethylene for the manufacture of polyethylene and other products.
Fasullo said NOVA would have a more reliable destination for ethane if it expanded its Corunna cracker capacities near Sarnia, Canada. The expansion would require less money and less time than Shell’s project. A major expansion at Corunna could be completed years before Shell completes construction of a world-scale facility.
Sarnia, located in Ontario, is an established petrochemical region, with more than 30 percent of the petrochemical capacity in Canada, second behind Alberta, according to Statistics Canada. The Sarnia and Windsor regions in Ontario have salt caverns to store hydrocarbons and liquefied petrochemicals such as ethane. There are 73 active caverns in Ontario with total capacity of 12.6 million cubic feet, according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
NOVA’s Corunna cracker in Sarnia already plans to use ethane from the Marcellus shale basin. An existing Sunoco pipeline from the western Pennsylvania to Sarnia will transport 40,000 bbl/day of ethane to NOVA’s cracker, and an additional 10,000 bbl/day to the region for other plants.
In addition, NOVA will upgrade the feedstock capability at the cracker by the end of 2013 to 100 percent of natural gas liquid (NGL) feeds, company CEO Randy Woelfel said. Also, Imperial Oil has a refinery and petrochemical complex in Sarnia. The complex produces a wide range of products, including polyethylene, solvents, olefins and aromatics, the company said.
If Shell’s proposed plant were to shut down for maintenance or an unscheduled outage, the company would be forced to reject ethane because it could not sell to another chemical complex and had no ethane storage in the region, said Fasullo. Accordingly, producers are more cautious to make supply commitments to a possible ethylene plant in the Marcellus region.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.