In a keynote address during Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s “West Virginia: Energy Powering Economic Development” summit last week, ACC President Cal Dooley told state officials and energy experts that natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could help revitalize American manufacturing in West Virginia and bring new, high-paying jobs to the state. “It has never been so good for the U.S. chemical industry,” Dooley informed the crowd.
West Virginia is currently in the running for a $3.2 billion ethane cracker facility that could bring up to 12,000 permanent jobs, $729 million in wages and $95 million in state tax revenue, Dooley explained. But the company planning to invest in the new facility, Shell Chemicals, continues to weigh its options, looking into two other viable locations to build the cracker in neighboring states Pennsylvania and Ohio. The petrochemicals company says they expect to announce a final decision in January.
A cracker located somewhere in this “wet region” of the Marcellus shale would serve one primary purpose: converting ethane from shale gas into ethylene, a raw material or feedstock for the chemical industry. As Dooley illustrated during the summit, this new ethylene supply would create a “multiplier effect” across the U.S. manufacturing base, spurring the development and expansion of downstream industries that rely on chemicals to create products for housing, food packaging, clothing, cars and many others.
Given this natural gas “shale gale,” Dooley said the chemical industry is looking at $16 billion in new capital investments over the next five to seven years, which could mean 17,000 new construction jobs, 400,000 permanent jobs and more than $130 billion in U.S. gross domestic product.
With the projection of new jobs and increased revenues, shale gas may be just the remedy for an ailing economy. “Remember,” Dooley told the attending crowd, “A bright economic future is lying just beneath our feet.”