The Marcellus Shale play offers more than a clean, affordable energy resource: It offers a potential resurgence in Pennsylvania manufacturing.
That was the message Denise Brinley, senior energy adviser with the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED), spread during the Global Plastics Summit (GPS) 2017 in Chicago.
"We're sitting on an enormous amount of feedstock to promote a renaissance in manufacturing," Brinley told the GPS crowd.
Here are three takeaways from GPS 2017:
Shell Chemicals cracker plant only the beginning
The manufacturing resurgence will begin with the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, but it won’t end there. PTT Global Chemical of Thailand recently purchased a 168-acre site in Belmont County, Ohio, for a possible ethane cracker.
It makes sense for the Marcellus play to be the site of a mid-Atlantic petrochemical boom. Brinley noted the Shell Chemicals site is within 700 miles of 70 percent of North America’s high-density and linear low-density polyethylene processors. With Shell ready to start construction and PTT possibly building a plant, it’s not a stretch to believe that more petrochemical opportunities aren’t far behind. Brinley said the Marcellus region can support three more crackers and one can be supported in the Utica Shale region. West Virginia eventually could be home to an ethane storage facility.
The mid-Atlantic is "a good place to be situated if you want access to feedstock at low prices and access to customers in the market," Brinley said.
Petrochemicals, manufacturing allow states to work together
The Beaver County site ultimately will have annual production capacity of 3.3 billion pounds of ethylene feedstock. The ethane sourced will come from Marcellus fields. It provides Pennsylvania with new economic opportunities and the ability to work with neighboring states on increasing manufacturing opportunities.
Brinley said the Shell cracker is being looked at as a “regional investment” for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The three states are working together on opportunities instead of competing with each other.
"Our states have a rich manufacturing heritage," she said. "We landed [the Shell project] because we have the workforce to support it."
She noted the area “won’t look like the Gulf Coast, but it can support additional investments.”
Plastics manufacturing attracted by petrochemical opportunities
A report co-sponsored by DCED and the Team Pennsylvania Foundation in March forecasts $2.7 billion to $3.7 billion in natural gas liquid assets in Pennsylvania, thanks to the abundant resources in the Marcellus and Utica Shale reserves.
This means a great deal to plastics manufacturers, who are not only attracted to the state’s feedstock supply but to Pennsylvania’s existing plastics manufacturing base, robust transportation infrastructure and half of the nation’s accredited plastics engineering technology programs.
One of those programs, Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering, is hoping to place graduating engineering students in some of the 600 full-time positions that will be created at the Shell Chemicals facility.
Brinley will speak during the Tri-State Shale Summit, Nov. 28-29 in Canton, Ohio, about collaboration among Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.