Shale and Manufacturing Make a Great Team

Royal Dutch Shell has intensified efforts to buy properties surrounding the Horsehead Corp. zinc smelting plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Shell is evaluating it as a site for a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker, according to a recent report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Shell has been negotiating with businesses along Route 18 in Beaver County for an option to buy their land in the next year, the paper reported.

The news of Shell’s moves coincides with the announcement of a new coalition, American Shale & Manufacturing Partnership, to promote shale gas as more than just a form of affordable energy as it can also be used as a feedstock for a range of manufacturing products. These products range from paints and coatings to Styrofoam and plastics.

“This gas, especially the wet gas, should lead to a manufacturing renaissance in this country,” said Matthew Sanfilippo, Senior Executive Director, Research Initiatives for the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon (CMU).

CMU and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers began the partnership. It quickly expanded to include members from manufacturing, labor, environment, academia and business organizations. The group notes that a recent study from the economic research group, IHS, projects that the development of shale oil and gas will boost employment by almost 4 million jobs by 2025. Manufacturing output is slated to grow by $328 billion in just 12 years, according to the global research firm. Well over 100 new manufacturing facilities are on the drawing board as a result of lower natural gas costs. They represent a broad range of industries, including chemical, iron and steel, plastics, fertilizer and more.

President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, warned at a recent roundtable discussing the new partnership that the economic benefits from the shale gas are not a foregone conclusion.

“Overreach by state and federal lawmakers and regulators could slow this progress and, in the worst case, stop it,” Timmons said. “To realize our full energy potential, we need government policies that support the continued development of oil and gas resources, energy infrastructure projects and manufacturing growth.”