President Trump’s visit to the ethane cracker plant under construction in Beaver County today highlights the energy-enabled Rust Belt Revival taking hold across Appalachia. Thanks to abundant, low-cost natural gas, regional manufacturers have a cost-competitive advantage to invest and create good-paying local jobs.
Set to be completed in the coming years, the Shell Petrochemicals Complex on the banks of the Ohio River in Beaver County employs more than 5,000 area construction workers, including a majority union workforce. As a business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers recently told the New York Times, “the guys are tickled pink to be working on this thing.”
With the plant construction, along with other local energy infrastructure projects, union halls across the Commonwealth are at full employment – a welcome change from a decade ago during the depths of the Great Recession. According to KDKA-TV, union leaders say this energy-driven construction project is “huge.”
“[We have] 1,800 working from the West Virginia border to Lake Erie in 15 counties,” says Ken Broadbent, business manager for Steamfitters Local 449.
“But on the cracker, we should peak with Great Arrow Builders with 1,500 steamfitters.”
“So if I’ve got 1,800 working now and we’re almost going to double the man hours — need double the number of steamfitters because of that facility.”
“This is huge,” adds Greg Christy, business manager for Iron Workers Local No. 3. …
“This will transform the tri-state area if you will, and for Local 3 it’s big, and, as [Broadbent] stated, we are actively recruiting apprentices,” said Christy.
For Beaver County small businesses, like Kristin Stanzak, the owner of Don’s Deli in downtown Beaver, construction has been a welcome boost for her family-run shop. According to the Times:
Kristin Stanzak is the owner of Don’s Deli in downtown Beaver, which she opened with her husband in 2016, just before construction of the Shell plant took off. On many afternoons, Ms. Stanzak runs out of sub rolls largely because of the orders from Shell — as many as 100 orders a day.
When that happens, she posts a picture of herself on Instagram dressed as Little Orphan Annie that reassures: “The subs will be back tomorrow! Betchyer bottom dollar that tomorrow … we’ll have suuuubsss.”
When complete, the advanced manufacturing facility will employ hundreds of local workers with good-paying, family supporting jobs.
As the nation’s second-largest natural gas producing state, Pennsylvania – and the broader Appalachian basin – is positioned to realize a generational manufacturing jobs opportunity. Natural gas and natural gas liquids are the primary feedstock in many manufacturing processes, making the tri-state – or Shale Crescent region – cost-competitive to locate new manufacturing facilities.
“Affordable, abundant, local natural gas is powering a Rust Belt revival, as the region looks to gain a competitive edge in attracting advanced manufacturing – and the good-paying jobs that come with it,” Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Spigelmyer said.
The largest increase in natural gas liquids production since 2012 has been in Appalachia, where production increased from 43 thousand b/d in 2012 to 512 thousand b/d in 2017, according to recent federal government data. As such, Pennsylvania could attract four more ethane crackers – in addition to the Shell project under construction in Beaver County, according to a 2017 IHS Markit analysis.
Watch and share this video to learn more about Pennsylvania’s Energy Advantage:
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- MSC Member Spotlight: The Tri-M Group
- Carbon Emissions Continue Fall as Natural Gas Generates Larger U.S. Power Share
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