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Pa. 1 of 3 states with eye on big Shell plant

West Virginia, Ohio also in running for multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery.

PITTSBURGH — Big industry may be coming back to the northeast United States.

Shell Oil Co. is nearing a decision on where in the Appalachians to build a huge new petrochemical refinery — a project that could bring thousands of jobs and change the face of the region for decades. The plans are driven by the gas reserves discovered in the Marcellus Shale.

The scale of the multibillion-dollar project is unlike anything seen for decades in the region, said David Hounshell, a professor of technology and social change at Carnegie Mellon University.

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the company plans to decide by the end of the year where to build the plant, which would convert natural gas liquids to other chemicals.

The complex would likely attract many smaller, specialized chemical plants, since the main product, ethylene, is used to make chemicals that go into everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze, according to the American Chemistry Council.

The council estimated the complex could attract up to $16 billion in private investment and create more than 17,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue.

Other U.S. and overseas companies are also considering similar projects in the region.

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