“The nation’s fast-growing supply of cheap natural gas is setting off a manufacturing revival that’s expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs as companies build or expand plants to take advantage of the low prices,” reported USA Today’s Paul Davidson on Wednesday. CNN and MSNBC also picked up the story, which quoted ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley.
Shale gas, rich in ethane needed for chemical production, is positively impacting the country’s economic outlook as well as its energy future. ACC is aware of 30 chemical projects that could appear in the next five years, including new plants, expanded production or operational changes that boost output, known as “debottlenecking.”
A new U.S. plant is being explored by Shell Chemical, which signed a land option agreement earlier this month that brings the company one step closer to building a petrochemical complex in Monaca, PA.
But Marcellus Shale Coalition president Jathryn Klaber says neighboring states Ohio and West Virginia would also stand to benefit from a new Pennsylvania complex:
While located in Pennsylvania, the supply chain and potential economic impact of this project will span the multi-state region while serving as an anchor in the resurgence of the domestic manufacturing sector.
Ohio’s top economic official, Mark Jvamme, says he sees “a huge opportunity in the petrochemical business, plastic business, also manufacturing, within about 100 miles of the plant,” including potential opportunities for Ohio and West Virginia residents to work at the plant.
The effects could be far-reaching, indeed. ACC estimates that, combined, the petrochemical investments currently under consideration would expand U.S. petrochemical capacity by 27% and create more than 200,000 new jobs in the chemical and supplier industries alone. More jobs would be created in customer industries that benefit from chemistry’s global competitive advantage.
Job Growth Expected From Cheap Natural Gas
The nation’s fast-growing supply of cheap natural gas is setting off a manufacturing revival that’s expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs as companies build or expand plants to take advantage of the low prices.
Royal Dutch Shell announced this month that it chose a site near Pittsburgh for a facility to convert ethane from locally produced natural gas into ethylene and polyethylene. They’re used to make plastics that go into packaging, pipes and other products. The planned ethane cracker would employ a few hundred workers.
It’s among nearly 30 chemical plants proposed in the U.S. in the next five years, according to the American Chemistry Council. The projects would expand U.S. petrochemical capacity by 27 percent and employ 200,000 workers at the factories and related suppliers, says Council President Cal Dooley, a major turnaround.
As U.S. natural gas prices soared in the late 1990s, chemical makers moved overseas, laying off 140,000 employees, Dooley says. But the U.S. has seen a natural gas boom in recent years, with producers using new drilling techniques to extract fuel from shale formations in Texas, Pennsylvania and other regions. U.S. natural gas prices, at slightly more than $2 per million British thermal units, are about 75 percent below Western Europe rates.