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Shale gas brings manufacturing revival

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Dean Cordle Dean Cordle
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Dean Cordle is president and CEO of AC & S Inc. and chairman of the Chemical Industry Committee for the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.

Over the last several decades, West Virginia has witnessed a steady decline in good-paying manufacturing jobs. Our state now finds itself in a position to reverse that trend due to affordable, abundant natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

The game-changing impact of the shale gas resource upon the United States is truly incredible. One recent prediction brings into focus the tectonic shift occurring in world energy markets. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts the U.S. will become the world's largest producer of natural gas and oil by the end of the decade, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia, respectively. The report goes on to say, "Energy developments in the United States are profound and their effect will be felt well beyond North America — and the energy sector."

The obvious question is "How will West Virginia benefit from the Marcellus Shale gas resource?"

West Virginia stands to benefit from both the upstream and downstream economic activity connected to the abundant supply of natural gas and ethane. The upstream economic stimulus derived from the production of the gas is significant and projected to increase substantially. The drilling, liquid separation and transmission of the natural gas is stimulating the economy in the region and our state.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology projected that by 2020 the shale gas industry could support over 300,000 jobs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. There is widespread consensus among industry experts that upstream economic growth will continue for many years to come.

The downstream economic benefits from the shale gas resource will be highlighted by Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Mr. Dooley is the keynote speaker at the Marcellus to Manufacturing (M2M) Ethane Development Conference taking place in Charleston March 20-21. The downstream capital investments in chemical manufacturing plants, equipment, raw materials and wages to produce the ingredients for consumer products will be enormous.

A recent ACC study found that economic benefits to the chemical industry could result in 1.2 million additional jobs, about $72 billion in capital investment and a 7 percent increase in manufacturing expansion. The bulk of this initial investment will be used to "crack" the ethane molecule and transform it into ethylene, the basic building block for hundreds of consumer products we use every day.

Chemistry is the foundation of America's manufacturing sector. More than 96 percent of all manufactured goods are connected to the business of chemistry.

West Virginia has a rich heritage in chemical manufacturing and is now poised to take a leadership role in creating jobs for a strong, secure and sustainable future. 

I encourage you to attend the M2M conference and learn from the experts how the chemical industry is ready to deliver a manufacturing renaissance in our state.

For information on the event, or to register, visit www.m2methaneconference.com.