Natural Gas Drives Pa. Manufacturing Resurgence

Western Pennsylvania manufacturing is on the comeback thanks, in large part, to the region’s abundance of natural gas.

From the Shell ethane cracker facility under construction in Beaver County to the growth of Lawrence County’s steel industry and a resurgent plastics industry in Erie County, affordable, abundant natural gas is driving the region’s manufacturing comeback.

Construction of the Beaver County ethane cracker is well underway, with more than 40 cranes visible on the site, the Business Times reports. Alongside the vertical build, the company is “ramping up the workforce to the eventual 6,000 workers that will be on site during construction.” And just north in Lawrence County, natural gas development is leading to a “general resurgence in manufacturing” as a $863 million natural gas power plant is nearing construction and the New Castle Industrial Railroad expands to meet growing energy demand.

In case you missed it, here’s highlights from recent Erie Times-News and Youngstown Business Journal reports on regional manufacturing – and the good-paying, middle class jobs that come with it – growth.

Erie Times-News: “Erie’s plastics industry could be helped by Shell cracker

The construction of the $6 billion Shell cracker project two hours away in Beaver County holds the promise of securing 4,300 [local plastics] jobs for years to come.

But there is an argument to be made that the cracker, capable of converting natural gas liquids into 3½ billion pounds of polyethylene a year, could do more than preserve an already healthy slice of the economy.

In fact, there’s reason to believe this part of the Erie economy could be poised to grow larger and stronger….

Producing those resin pellets two hours away will lower transportation and overall costs dramatically, said Penn State Behrend’s Amy Bridger.

“Now our local producers have an opportunity to reduce supply chain costs,” Bridger said. “And we have an opportunity to attract more manufacturers to come to this area because of those benefits.” …

Bridger said the expectation within the industry is that construction of the Beaver County cracker is expected to lead to the construction of other such plants within the region.

The potential cost savings are significant, said Robert Guthrie, plant manager at Berry Plastics in Erie. The plant, one of about 90 Berry locations worldwide, makes billions of plastic bottle lids and caps each year…

Penn State Behrend’s Jason Williams sees opportunities for other companies to expand and possibly relocate to what he said has “been traditionally a huge plastics hub.”

“If they locate close to the sources, it gives them a cost advantage,” he said. “A lot of companies are paying attention to this.”

Youngstown Business Journal: Signs Point Toward a “General Resurgence in Manufacturing”

Work is underway, for example, on the $863 million, gas-powered Hickory Run electrical generation plant in North Beaver Township. The project, under development by Tyr Energy, is expected to create several hundred construction jobs in the near-term during the building phase…

Other industrial expansion jobs are waiting in the wings, according to Jim Salvatore, operations manager at Lee Michaels Industries in New Castle. This, he says, is an indication that the region is starting to see a real, sustainable rebound in the manufacturing sector

[For the New Castle Industrial Railroad] most of this work entails hauling sand used for hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry. … This segment of the business should grow exponentially in the near future.

The energy and oil and gas markets are still showing signs of strength in the region and attracting new investment, buoyed by the abundance of natural gas trapped in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

For more on ways local natural gas is driving a manufacturing renaissance, click here. And be sure to connect with the MSC on Twitter and Facebook.