Sec. Perry: Appalachian Petrochemical Manufacturing “Makes Sense”

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified before a House committee yesterday where he announced support for expanding petrochemical manufacturing throughout the Appalachian region. Given the region’s low vulnerability to extreme weather events, abundant natural gas supply, and qualified workers, Perry told federal lawmakers the Appalachian Basin is primed to become the next major petrochemical manufacturing center.

ICYMI – here are highlights from Sec. Perry’s testimony.

As the governor of Texas, in August and September, I worried greatly about a Category 5 hurricane coming up the Houston ship line and devastating the petrochemical footprint that is a substantial amount of that industry for the United States. That is a national security issue.”

The region we’re looking at … is in the Appalachian region to help transition it to be an area where petrochemical refining would be the basis.

To develop [the Gulf’s petrochemical industry] in another region of this country, the Appalachian, makes sense because you’re sitting on top of Marcellus and Utica, which are prolific gas fields, and helping transition the workers who are either out of work or not working in jobs that are satisfactory from their perspective into higher-paying refining and petrochemical type jobs. That is a something we’re working on actively today at DOE.”

As E&E News reported on the hearing, Shell’s ethane cracker under construction in Beaver County is “a game-changer for our commonwealth” that’s “been the catalyst for additional petrochemical projects in the Marcellus-Utica shale play.”

[Natural gas] development in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits has vaulted Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the top ranks of U.S. natural gas producers. Pennsylvania production increased fivefold since 2011, putting it just ahead of Texas last year. Ohio ranks third and West Virginia fourth, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration….

Denise Brinley, energy adviser at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said her state is excited about investments made by Shell to tap the gas-rich Marcellus for petrochemical manufacturing. The state expects to enjoy an economic boost from the plant.

“Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals’ announcement to locate in Beaver County is a game-changer for our commonwealth,” Brinley said in January.

“Shell’s investment has been the catalyst for additional petrochemical prospects in the Marcellus-Utica shale play, including PTT Global Chemical in Belmont County, Ohio. Pennsylvania and our neighboring states of Ohio and West Virginia faced stiff competition from the investments in the Gulf Coast over the last several years,” she said.