Shell pipeline map


For more than a year, federal and state agencies have been investigating reports of possible safety issues with the Shell Falcon Pipeline.

The ethane pipeline, owned and operated by Shell Pipeline Co., is alleged to have possibly been constructed with defective coating. If so, the coating could corrode, compromising its ability to protect the pipeline from possible ruptures.

The 98-mile Falcon Pipeline runs from eastern Ohio, through the West Virginia panhandle and into Washington, Allegheny and Beaver counties in Pennsylvania. It links the Mark West gas processing plant in Chartiers Township, and two Ohio processing plants, with the Royal Dutch Shell petrochemical plant being constructed in Beaver County.

The pipeline is completed and underground, and will move gas to the Potter Township cracker plant when it opens sometime next year. Plastics will be manufactured at that location along the Ohio River.

The state Department of Environmental Protection first became involved in the case. Neil Shader, the agency’s communications director, said in an email Wednesday: “DEP’s jurisdiction related to the Shell Falcon Pipeline relates to the construction activities of the pipeline, not the installation and operation of it.

“DEP was made aware of concerns about the installation of the pipeline and raised those concerns to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which has appropriate jurisdiction and expertise, and believe they have taken these concerns seriously.”

A spokesman for Shell Pipeline, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said PHMSA officials “conducted three on-site audits” of the pipeline and “found no issues” with the coatings.

PHMSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. It oversees development and enforcement of the nation’s 2.6-million-mile pipeline network. PHMSA and the DEP are investigating the allegations.

FracTracker Alliance, a nonprofit that monitors the oil and gas industry, said a number of concerns have been raised. It said in a statement Wednesday that “29 regional groups are calling on state and federal agencies to fully investigate construction incidents and the pipeline’s integrity, take all necessary enforcement actions to ensure Shell Pipeline Co. follows the law, and halt all work and operation of the Falcon Pipeline unless it can be proven that this pipeline will not threaten public safety.”

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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