The Appalachian Basin’s energy future has never looked better. As President Trump explained in a speech during his visit to Shell Chemical’s ethane cracker facility that is currently under construction in Beaver County, Pa.:
“With your help, we’re not only unleashing American energy, we’re restoring the glory of American manufacturing and reclaiming our noble heritage as a nation of builders again.”
The region’s record-breaking production in recent years is driving the growth of U.S. natural gas.
Development in the Marcellus Shale has catapulted Pennsylvania to become the nation’s second highest natural gas producing state. The Commonwealth produced 6.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2018 – a 14 percent increase over 2017. Similarly, Ohio produced more than 2 TCF of natural gas for the first time ever in 2018 and had a record-breaking fourth quarter. Meanwhile, West Virginia also set new oil and gas production records, producing 1.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 million barrels of oil.
Shale has been a game-changer for the Appalachian Basin petrochemicals industry.
This record production has ignited interest in the region’s potential as a petrochemicals hub, where access to roughly 50 percent of North America’s petrochemical markets are within a day’s drive.
One such investment is the soon-to-be complete, $6 billion Shell cracker project that has already created over 5,000 construction jobs. As one local speaker explained during the event, these jobs have helped to “empty” local labor halls. The facility will also support 600 permanent jobs once complete and will help spur economic growth for the state.
In his speech, the president explained the important role of booming natural gas production in the success of the monumental ethane cracker plant, and the project’s implications for the region and American manufacturing:
“This Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County, Pennsylvania…is one of the single biggest construction projects in the nation. And it’s made it possible by clean, affordable natural gas.”
Ethane production will continue to grow in the Appalachian Basin through 2025, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Once complete, this project will produce more than a million tons of plastic, utilizing ethane from the natural-gas rich Marcellus and Utica shale basins. Further, in addition to Shell’s facility, two additional companies have expressed interest in building similar facilities in the region.
Ahead of the event, Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Spigelmyer released a statement, underscoring the industry’s dedication to creating local jobs and reviving the communities where they operate:
“Affordable, abundant, local natural gas is powering a Rust Belt revival, as the region looks to gain a competitive edge in attracting advanced manufacturing — and the good-paying jobs that come with it…Our industry is proud of the deep partnership we’ve forged with the region’s building trades, as thousands of hard-working union men and women construct the petrochemical manufacturing facility in Beaver County.”
Shale is revolutionizing West Virginia job market
Pennsylvania isn’t the only state in the Appalachian Basin benefiting from the shale revolution. The oil, natural gas, and mining industry represent the fastest growing occupations in West Virginia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industry has experienced a staggering 144% growth over the last 10 years.
Production growth is also creating a need for critical pipelines and related infrastructure to match capacity demand. These infrastructure projects are helping create high-paying jobs across the state. In fact, the Weirton-Steubenville, West Virginia/Ohio metropolitan area ranked first in the country for construction job growth between March 2017 and March 2018, according to the Associated General Contractors.
Thanks to technological innovations and advancements by industry, the Appalachian Basin, and the United States as a whole, are generating energy more efficiently and cleaner than ever before. Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy at the DOE, explained Appalachia’s bright future:
“The United States is on the brink of an Appalachian Petrochemical Renaissance…This renaissance started with the shale energy revolution, which rewrote the storyline and transformed the energy development of West Virginia and Appalachia. U.S. technological innovation has allowed the United States to emerge as the world’s top producer of oil and gas and a net exporter of natural gas.”
The region continues to break production records year-after-year, filling state coffers and providing high-paying jobs for thousands of Americans. Further, the energy and products produced in the region as a result of shale are not only benefiting Americans, but the global community, as well. As President Trump said:
“[The Appalachian Basin is] producing the American products that will be sold all over the world … You are the backbone of this country.”
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