MONACA, Pa. (AP) _ Shell Chemicals has bought the western Pennsylvania site of a former zinc smelter although it hasn’t announced a decision on building a petrochemical plant on the property.

The Beaver County Times ( ) reports that the company paid $13.5 million for the former Horsehead Corp. site in Potter and Center townships in Beaver County.

Shell officials have maintained that buying the property is a necessary step in gaining state permits to build an ethane cracker plant at the site about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Shell proposes piping in ethane from natural gas wells and then chemically “cracking” the liquid fuel so it can be converted to polyethylene pellets used to make various plastic products.

Officials say 400 to 500 operational jobs and thousands of construction jobs would be created.