Energy mavens from around the world met in Houston last week for IHS CERAWeek, where the economic benefits of natural gas from shale to America’s manufacturing sector proved a popular topic yet again.
America’s chemical manufacturers are especially rebounding from the economic decline, courtesy of abundant and affordable sources of natural gas from shale that the industry uses as a fuel and a raw material, said several energy analysts.
John Larson, vice president for economic and public sector consulting at IHS, envisioned a manufacturing renaissance, with onshoring displacing imports.
Gary Adams, IHS chief chemical advisor, waxed enthusiastic about the chemical industry’s economic prospects, predicting $100 billion in new investment in North American chemical plants driven by inexpensive prices and plentiful supplies of natural gas:
It’s a revolution in manufacturing. The opportunities are not opportunities of a lifetime, it’s of multiple lifetimes.
Many of these new chemical plants require multi-decades based on long-term planning and major capital spending, according to some industry experts
Nevertheless, Sergey Vasnetsov, senior vice president of strategic planning and transactions at LyondellBasell, emphasized that the future is now when it comes to pursuing chemical manufacturing expansions because the long-term prices of natural gas could fluctuate.
The only drawback in the chemical manufacturing growth could be the increasing difficulty in finding enough engineers and skilled workers needed at the new plants, despite salaries as high as $285,000 a year, up 20 to 50 percent since 2009.
If you can spell ‘shale,’ you can get a job, Ryan Lance, CEO of ConocoPhillips told attendees at CERAWeek.
Of course, high demand for workers might not be the worst thing to happen to a chemical industry stuck in the doldrums before natural gas from shale came to the rescue.
“What a wonderful problem to have,” contributed Peter Robertson, a former vice chairman of the board of Chevron Corp.