POTTER TWP., Pa. -- They've put it off once again.
Royal Dutch Shell has signed another six-month extension with Horsehead Corp. for the proposed $2.5 billion ethane cracker plant in Potter Township, Beaver County on the site of the soon-to-close zinc smelting plant.
This is the second extension granted.
The original decision deadline was Dec. 31, 2012, but the oil company asked for its first extension just days before that date. Sunday was the deadline for the second extension.
Ali Alavi, a senior vice president at Horsehead, which owns a metal plant currently occupying the 300-acre site in Monaca, said Shell didn't commit to making a decision within the next six months, but added that the time period "seemed to be a reasonable number between the parties.”
Shell spokeswoman Kimberly Windon said that process is continuing.
"The reason that we would announce that we wanted a specific site so early is it allows us to open communication with potential neighbors" and stakeholders, she said.
"Even though we have not decided whether we'll go ahead and build the facility, it's important for us that we listen to their feedback."
The proposed cracker plant would convert natural gas liquids from the Marcellus shale into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene, which is used to make plastics and other products.
In March 2012, the oil company said the Horsehead site was its first choice to build a multi-billion dollar plant, but that extensive evaluations had to be done. Experts said the proposed plant would create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and 400 permanent positions once construction is completed.
But this new extension may not be that big of a surprise. In April, Gov. Tom Corbett said he didn't expect a decision regarding the proposed plant until 2014.
But some officials don’t necessarily think this new extension is a bad sign.
“Today’s announcement by Horsehead of an additional extension to the land option agreement doesn’t change anything about the continuing evaluation,” said Dewitt Peart, president of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, on Friday. “It just reaffirms that both parties remain interested in a future transaction that would transfer ownership of the site to Shell.”
He also pointed to the multi-year evaluation of the site.
“As we all know, Shell Chemical is engaged in a multi-year evaluation of the site that includes environmental analysis, engineering design studies, evaluation of ethane supply and economic viability,” Peart said. “Extending the term of a land option agreement is a routine aspect of this kind of ongoing evaluation.”
“The PRA is -- and remains -- optimistic that the site near Monaca, Pa., will become the home of a state-of-the-art, world-class Shell Chemicals petrochemical facility at the conclusion of the evaluation process,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.