Dan Brouillette said this region is leading the way in ethane cracker technology.By Jon Delano

MONACA, Pa. (KDKA) — United States Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette was in the area on Monday, inspecting progress at the under-construction Shell cracker plant in Beaver County.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with KDKA’s Jon Delano, Brouillette said this region is leading the way in ethane cracker technology. After touring the cracker plant in Monaca, America’s top energy official says he’s impressed.

“A fantastic facility being built by Shell and Bechtel Corporation,” Brouillette told Jon Delano. “I think it’s going to be the world’s preeminent natural gas ethylene cracker. It’s just a phenomenal facility out there.”

Brouillette says it’s the high-tech quality of the operation that will put this facility on the world stage.

“It’s got the most advanced technology anywhere in the world. That’s why we’re so excited about this. They will be leading the world in how to do this.”

And the products produced from the ethane that is extracted from the natural gas in this region are familiar.

“The products that are going to come out of there are just so important to our everyday lives – everything from the dashboard in your car, to some of the clothes you wear, the plastic bottles that hold the hand sanitizer that we’ve all become accustomed to as part of this pandemic,” said Brouillette.

But Brouillette says coronavirus has delayed construction.

“Many of the craft workers have come back. I think they’re up to over 5,000 employees now on site. That’s the good news story. But, look, the pandemic has slowed down everything from the demand for refined product to the availability of craft workers like welders and electricians.”

Still, the secretary told KDKA that the plant should be up and running before the end of next year. Brouillette also met with Carnegie Mellon University’s artificial intelligence experts on how AI can improve energy efficiency.