The chances that Royal Dutch Shell might build a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania appeared to improve last week, after the company ditched plans to build another large plant along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In late October, executives at the Netherlands-based energy giant said earnings declines were causing the company to face some "hard choices" about its future investment plans.
The company's global profits had dropped 32 percent over the last year due to weaker fuel demand, refinery profit margin declines and reduced output in Nigeria due to attacks on the company's pipelines.
The revenue squeeze didn't mix well with the company's ambitious plans to invest in new facilities and production capacity at sites around the world.
Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry said 2013 would be a "peak investment year," and said the company would carefully manage its finances by selling off some assets and being more cautious in its investments over the next few years.
Shell CEO Peter Voser said the company was going to have to review its current list of potential projects and decide which ones will go forward and which ones will not.
Three of those projects were in North America: A liquefied natural gas plant in Canada, a large gas-to-liquids plant in Louisiana and the ethylene cracker plant in Beaver County, Pa.
Voser singled out those three in October and signaled that at least one of them would have to be cut.
"We cannot afford to take all three together at once and if we could, I am not sure we have the engineers and the project managers to do so," he said.