Tribune-Review: Shale boom could create a million manufacturing jobs

By Joe Napsha

Developing the nation’s vast natural gas shale reserves could create 1 million manufacturing jobs by the year 2025 and save manufacturers $11.6 billion a year because of a low-priced and stable gas supply, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The amount of gas in the Marcellus shale reserves in Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia, and about 25 other shale plays in the United States, estimated at 862 trillion cubic feet, is sufficient to be “absolutely a game-changer for the U.S. economy,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a D.C.-based trade group.

The annual savings that manufacturers could experience were determined by combining gas consumption levels with potentially lower gas prices if a large amount of shale gas is produced.

The job creation projected in the 16-page report, “Shale Gas: A Renaissance in U.S. Manufacturing,” is based on a high level of shale gas production. The jobs would be created by companies expanding or building new plants, as well as companies bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, said Robert McCutcheon, U.S. industrial products leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, which produced the report with the manufacturer’s association.

Development of the unconventional shale gas more than a mile underground would most likely result in manufacturing jobs being created by companies in the chemicals, metals and industrial manufacturing sectors, said McCutcheon, who is based in PricewaterhouseCooper’s Pittsburgh office.

“The number of U.S. chemicals, metals and industrial manufacturing companies that disclosed shale gas potential and its impact so far in 2011 easily surpassed that of the last three years combined, indicating this is of growing importance in the outlook of U.S. manufacturers,” McCutcheon said.

The report did not specify how much of the projected job creation would be associated with development in the Marcellus shale reserves or how many jobs Pennsylvania might gain from the increased gas exploration and production.

A potential limiting factor to the projected economic benefits is the environmental impact from hydraulically fracturing the wells with millions of gallons of water laced with chemical additives, McCutcheon said. The natural gas industry must conduct exploration and production in an environmentally safe manner, he said.

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