Educational partnerships ensure bright energy future

Avatar Joe Massaro

This year, Braskem, in partnership with Eastern Controls and Delaware County Community College, announced a new, eight-week Process Operator Academy designed to train workers in the petroleum, chemical,...

This year, Braskem, in partnership with Eastern Controls and Delaware County Community College, announced a new, eight-week Process Operator Academy designed to train workers in the petroleum, chemical, pharmaceutical, food and other industries. Program participants take hands-on courses at the academy that provide skills to be successful process operators, including in the natural gas industry.

The last decade has seen a sharp decline in the talent pool of skilled workers in the chemical and petroleum industry available to fill high-demand jobs as a result of the retirement of a generation of workers. Building a skilled workforce through training programs like the partnership with Delaware County Community College delivers highly trained workers to a field experiencing growing demand.

See more about this innovative program in this video:

Discussing the opportunities for the workforce in the chemical industry in Pennsylvania, PCIC President Abby Foster said, “In 2018, there were close to $200 billion in new/announced chemical industry investments in the U.S. — some of which are here in Pennsylvania.

“With the continued responsible development of our natural gas resources, as both industry feedstock and fuel, we can expect to add more than 100,000 jobs regionally in the chemical and petrochemical downstream application markets and supply chains,” she added.

It’s clear the opportunity for a bright energy future being fueled by natural gas is present in the state. Educational partnerships between colleges, universities and the energy industry are making sure our state has the workforce to meet the demand.

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Kleinman report shows how natural gas has transformed Pa.

Avatar Joe Massaro
Photo: Shale Gas Development Has Transformed Pa.

Pennsylvania natural gas development has come a long way. This is evident in an October 2017 report from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, “Pennsylvania’s Gas Decade: Insights...

Pennsylvania natural gas development has come a long way.

This is evident in an October 2017 report from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, “Pennsylvania’s Gas Decade: Insights Into Consumer Pricing Impacts from Shale Gas (2007-2016).” The report acts as a Marcellus Shale baby book, showing how the state’s shale gas sector has grown from its infancy to its current stage.

Pennsylvania has come a long way since the completion of the first Marcellus Shale exploratory well in 2004. The state has transformed into the go-to energy resource for natural gas.

Here are three takeaways that show how:

Pennsylvania drove increases in national natural gas supply

It wasn’t until 2007 that the shale gas revolution really took off in the commonwealth. From 1997 to 2007, the state’s gas production accounted for less than 1 percent of the national supply. However, production grew immensely — 2,788 percent — as the benefits of shale gas development were realized. This increase was “larger than in any other major gas-producing state,” according to the report.

In 2016, Pennsylvania was responsible for more than 16 percent of the domestic natural gas supply. The report notes these gains “made Pennsylvania the biggest driver of America’s 32-percent increase in annual natural gas production.”

Pennsylvania is a net natural gas exporter

The beginnings of Marcellus Shale development were lean. Because of natural gas’ growing popularity, Pennsylvania was consuming four times more gas than it produced in 2007. This required gas to be imported from other states. The consumption deficit continued until 2011, the first year that Pennsylvania produced more gas than it consumed.

This trend has continued, and in 2016 Pennsylvania produced more than 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In-state consumption held at less than 2 trillion cubic feet. In 2016, the state exported or stored 75 percent of the gas it produced. This transformed Pennsylvania into a net natural gas exporter. The report notes that the state “is expected to continue to increase net export volumes.”

Pennsylvania’s electric power prices are below the national average

Pennsylvania is no longer notorious for higher than the national average natural gas costs for power generation and retail prices. The report notes, “It is clear that Pennsylvania consumers enjoyed more significant cost reductions than national averages.”

Natural gas prices for power generation reached their pinnacle in 2008 at nearly $10/Mcf. That all changed the next year when production increases helped decrease prices to approximately $5/Mcf. Aside from slight upticks in 2013 and 2014, prices continued to decrease. In 2016 the price dropped to approximately $3/Mcf. From 2007 to 2016, Pennsylvania electricity ratepayers benefited from a 79 percent reduction in costs, and prices decreased below the national average.

The growth of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania over the last 14 years has been amazing to watch and, relatively speaking, the industry is still going through early growing pains. We can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Women in energy: Perspectives on gender balance

Avatar Abby Foster

By 2035, the natural gas and oil industries are projected to add 1.9 million jobs, according to a March 2016 study from the American Petroleum Institute (API). Of...

By 2035, the natural gas and oil industries are projected to add 1.9 million jobs, according to a March 2016 study from the American Petroleum Institute (API). Of those, women are projected to account for 290,000 positions — just 16 percent of the total.

The API study shows that, while the natural gas and oil sectors are growing, the amount of women in these industries has not kept pace with growth. The topic of gender disparity isn’t isolated to the natural gas and oil industries. However, the energy industry and related STEM fields are making proactive strides in attracting more women to the industry, with organizations such as the Women’s Energy Network growing in size and scope yearly.

Women who work in the industry will tell you there’s still work to be done.

In recognition of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we talked with four women, and one man, in the natural gas industry to get their feelings on the gender disparity in the field and to find out what attracted them to the sector. Below are excerpts from those interviews.

Brittany Ramos
Coordinator of External Affairs, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

Brittany RamosYears in industry: 6

What did you know about the industry before coming aboard?
“I knew nothing about energy. When I was in college, I didn’t think about energy. I just thought it came from a light switch.”

Does the industry suffer from gender disparity?

“I think we need to be honest about the disparity of women in energy. Oil and gas has a lower percentage of women than technology does. But I can tell you through my experiences that I have encountered female and male champions for gender parity. We’re making strides forward, but we still have a long way to go.”

How can the industry bring aboard more women?

“It’s important to talk about the wide variety of careers available to students so they really consider the options they have within the industry. We need to get people thinking about energy jobs as more than just engineers, but as accountants, supply chain experts, welders and countless others. Odds are, if they have an interest in something, there’s a corresponding career within the oil and gas supply chain. There’s so much more than the stereotypes about this industry, and we need to make sure young people are aware of the opportunities that exist.”

Sara Blascovich
Regional Regulatory Manager, HDR Inc.

Sara BlascovichYears in industry: 10

What do you enjoy most about working in the oil and gas sector?
“[The sector is] pretty fast-paced, especially when you compare it to other industries. In transportation, you can work on a project for years and years without feeling any sense of accomplishment. In oil and gas, you can see the fruits of your labor very quickly, which is very nice. I also like that a lot of people in oil and gas like to do the right thing when it comes to environmental, and I like working for an industry that has that kind of mindset.”

Does it irritate you that we’re still having a conversation about gender disparity?
“I think that, as a whole, there’s gender disparity across the board in all industries. It does irritate me we’re still having this conversation. The solution is pretty simple: Women do not want to be treated differently.”

Whom do you look to as a mentor or for advice?
“When I became chair of the Capital Chapter of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals, I reached out to [chapter founder and former chair, and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development Senior Energy Adviser] Denise Brinley for her advice and input. She’s somebody who’s very conscious of uplifting other women and being a big supporter. I also talked to my grandmother about business and how she was able to succeed while having a family.”

Loren Anderson
Director, Technical Affairs, Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)

Loren AndersonYears in industry: 10

How have you seen things change for women in the energy sector?
“Much like engineering over the past 15 years, more women are working in the industry and as leaders in their companies. In fact, the MSC has 15 standing committees and in 2018 over half of them are chaired or vice chaired by women.”

Are there misconceptions preventing women from joining the industry?
“In college and throughout my career, I have noticed the number of women in technical fields grow. I think this is because colleges and universities are encouraging women to get more involved in these technical fields that were historically dominated by men.”

How can the industry bring more women aboard?

“I think the industry could do a better job getting the word out to high schools, colleges and universities that there are excellent careers in energy. Organizations like the Women’s Energy Network have helped to create an atmosphere through networking events and sessions that is welcoming to women and promotes careers in the energy industry.”

Nicole Jacobs
Pennsylvania Director, Energy In Depth

Nicole JacobsYears in industry: 7

What would you like to see occur with women in the energy sector over the next several years?
“I would love to see more women joining this workforce and excelling in it. From the roustabouts on-site to pilots and engineers or those of us who are more geared to communication, I think women have a valuable place in this industry.”

What do you think needs to be done to bring more women into the energy sector?
“I think that the effort really needs to be focused on getting the next generation of girls excited about STEM education. Encourage them to look for cool rocks to study or to excel at math and science.”

What do you like best about working in the energy sector?
“My favorite part of working in this industry is being a part of something so much bigger than just what’s occurring in my own community. Marcellus Shale is driving U.S. natural gas development and part of a global fuel shift, and we get to be a part of that history being made.”

Alyson Joyce
Stakeholder Relations Representative, Seneca Resources Corp.

Alyson JoyceYears in industry: 3.5

How did you get your start in energy?
“I had friends who were working in energy, so they taught me a lot about the industry and encouraged me to join the fight. I was working in public relations and doing social marketing for clients, specifically in the consumer packaged goods space. The key communications skill sets apply whether you’re working on a brand of dog food or in oil and gas.”

What do you think about the gender disparity conversation?
“My friends will tell you I’m a serial optimist. I think it’s a positive that we’re continuing to A) have the conversation and B) see improvements. There are some frustrations … that we still have to have this conversation and that companies aren’t progressing as quickly as one would hope. But I think as time continues to change and evolve, corporate policies that encourage diversity and provide support for working women will become commonplace.”

What do you enjoy most about working in the energy industry?
“I love that we give back, and that we’re making a difference. We’re bringing good-paying jobs to places that previously had little to no economic development. I love that we are helping to fix roads, build parks and bring STEM programs into the community. That part of what we do is so fantastic. We’re providing jobs and low-cost natural gas. It powers us and keeps America safe.”

Avatar Abby Foster

Abby Foster is a director who focuses on energy and infrastructure clients, developing and implementing strategic communications plans that hinge on building relationships and advocacy networks for clients.

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Stream’s themes: PA Farm Show and more January news highlights

Avatar Joe Massaro
The duckling exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, celebrating the state's agriculture industry

January brought the return of the Pennsylvania Farm Show to central PA, with a weeklong celebration of the state’s $185 billion agricultural industry — one of Pennsylvania’s biggest...

January brought the return of the Pennsylvania Farm Show to central PA, with a weeklong celebration of the state’s $185 billion agricultural industry — one of Pennsylvania’s biggest and most essential — along with the energy industry. These two economic powerhouses generate billions of dollars and employ hundreds of thousands of people to ensure state and local economies remain strong.

The Farm Show demonstrated how agriculture and natural gas can come together, and The Stream was there to cover what this partnership means for Pennsylvania.

Shale spotlight: Natural gas in the news

The Stream: What’s in the pipeline

Coming up from The Stream in February, look for more original perspectives from the natural gas industry.

Want more updates on the energy industry? Sign up for The Stream’s newsletter, delivered daily to your inbox. It’s free!

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Pennsylvania Farm Show celebrates agriculture, natural gas partnerships

Avatar Chris Getman
A calf stays warm at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Agriculture is an essential part of Pennsylvania’s economy. The scenic farms that pepper the state’s landscape form a $185 billion industry. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s shale boom, energy has...

Agriculture is an essential part of Pennsylvania’s economy. The scenic farms that pepper the state’s landscape form a $185 billion industry. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s shale boom, energy has also grown into a vital part of our economy. So it’s fitting that the natural gas industry is celebrating the agriculture during the Pennsylvania Farm Show through Jan. 13.

In a February 2017 op-ed for the Lebanon Daily News, Dave Williams of Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio called the shale revolution a “huge boost for Pennsylvania agriculture.” He noted how the abundance of natural gas has led to decreases in the prices of diesel fuel and fertilizer, while royalty payments from natural gas operators have kept many small farms operational.

Williams’ points illustrate how imperative the partnership between the energy and agricultural sectors is for Pennsylvania’s economy. Natural gas and agribusiness are two of the state’s key industries, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Energy and agriculture together generate billions of dollars and employ hundreds of thousands, ensuring state and local economies remain strong.

The Farm Show is another example of how agriculture and natural gas can come together. In October at the Midstream PA 2017 conference, representatives of Sunoco Pipeline and PennAg Industries Association discussed how they partnered to develop and launch a biosecurity training module that raises awareness of basic farm safety and etiquette for all sectors, including energy. PennAg Executive Vice President Christian Herr commended Sunoco Pipeline for taking a leadership position on the issue.

The duckling exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, celebrating the state's agriculture industry

This wasn’t the first time that agriculture and energy have partnered. The natural gas industry recognizes how vital Pennsylvania’s farms are. The state’s farmers appreciate the benefits the natural gas industry provides, including low-cost energy and royalty payments. 

And it’s not just economic benefits that make this partnership work. The natural gas sector has given generously to the agricultural community, as Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) Community Outreach Manager Eric Cowden noted in a PennLive op-ed last year.

The MSC supports the Farm Show Scholarship Foundation, which helps develop the next generation of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry. MSC member companies also purchase livestock at the 4-H and Future Farmers of America Junior Livestock Sale, with proceeds paid to the youth responsible for raising the purchased animals.

In these divisive times, the natural gas and agricultural sectors are providing a fine example of how working together can benefit all Pennsylvanians.

A calf stays warm at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Avatar Chris Getman

Chris Getman is a public relations, corporate communications and issue advocacy expert with concentrated expertise in the energy industry.

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Natural gas: Five trends we’re watching for 2018

Avatar Joe Massaro
Natural gas drilling

If 2018 is anything like 2017 was, the natural gas industry should buckle up for another exciting ride. The past year has been centered around optimism — and...

If 2018 is anything like 2017 was, the natural gas industry should buckle up for another exciting ride. The past year has been centered around optimism — and there are plenty of reasons for that:

  • Construction is underway for Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant. The project will inject $6 billion into the western Pennsylvania economy and create thousands of jobs.
  • In October, AC&S President and CEO Dean Cordle said the shale gas revolution has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, with more on the way.
  • Peoples Natural Gas President and CEO Morgan O’Brien put it much more simply: Pennsylvania’s economic future lies in natural gas.

And the optimism perseveres. As we look forward to 2018, here are five trends The Stream team will be tracking:

Natural gas drilling

Increased natural gas production from the Appalachian basin

After a downturn in production over the past few years, the natural gas industry is now producing more than ever before. Marcellus Shale production set a record in August, churning out 19.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in August, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Additionally, more drilled wells were completed in the Marcellus and Utica plays.

The EIA also expects production to continue increasing through 2018. The agency estimates U.S. dry natural gas production to average 73.4 Bcf/d, which is 5.5 Bcf/d higher than in 2017. Much of that will likely come from the Appalachian basin, which has produced more natural gas than any Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries country, as reported by Forbes. Moving more supply to domestic and international markets will be the key to unlocking new growth in 2018.

More natural gas takeaway capacity

For the past few years, the Marcellus and Utica shale supply was greater than the takeaway capacity could handle. This led to a downturn in production and lower prices.

But the industry’s fortunes turned around in 2017, when several new pipelines were approved or started construction. Among those is Energy Transfer Partners’ 713-mile Rover Pipeline, running from Canada through Michigan and northern Ohio, to wellsites in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The pipeline began construction this year, and it should be in service by late winter or early spring 2018.

Another pipeline that will help increase takeaway capacity is Williams’ Transco Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The 183-mile expansion from northern to southern Pennsylvania will add 1.7 Bcf/d to the Transco pipeline. Atlantic Sunrise received approval and began construction this year. It’s scheduled to be operational by mid-2018.

Additionally, several more pipelines are still awaiting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval, including Columbia Gas Transmission’s 170-mile Mountaineer XPress in West Virginia.

Expanded natural gas workforce development

The increased activity in the upstream and midstream sectors will lead to more jobs, especially in the downstream. There is no better example of this than Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant. The western Pennsylvania facility will create 6,000 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs.

Pennsylvania is already actively developing the workforce for these new positions. Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State Erie’s Behrend College offers plastics-specific programs in anticipation of more downstream opportunities. PCT and Westmoreland Community College are part of ShaleNET, a program designed to respond quickly to natural gas needs with entry-level training programs.

Expect to see more workforce development initiatives to train the skilled workers needed for these and other positions.

Nuclear, coal subsidies impacting natural gas end use

The natural gas industry could feel the ripple effects of some national energy policy decisions coming in early 2018. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan for nuclear and coal subsidies could cost up to $10.6 billion annually, according to research from Energy Innovation and the Climate Policy Initiative, which would be paid for by businesses and residents. Research found that subsidies would flow to approximately 10 companies and 90 power plants, and would turn competitive energy markets upside down in deregulated states, such as Pennsylvania.

FERC originally was to act on the the DOE proposal on Dec. 11. However, new FERC Chairman Kevin McIntyre was granted a 30-day extension. Now, the date to watch is Jan. 10.

Regardless of any FERC action, the nuclear industry continues to push for subsidies at the state level in New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Developing markets for natural gas, NGLs within the Appalachian basin

The Appalachian basin might just be the Silicon Valley of U.S. infrastructure, according to an Energy in Depth report on the region’s ability to support underground storage of natural gas liquids (NGLs).

“Today, the U.S. has more underground gas storage projects than any other country,” the report states.

Building more underground NGL storage facilities would lead to more economic opportunities in the region. A report by the American Chemistry Council says adding storage hubs could help the Appalachian basin become a second center of U.S. petrochemical and plastic resin manufacturing, similar to the Gulf Coast.

Whatever happens in the natural gas industry in 2018, The Stream will be there every step of the way. Keep checking back for all the latest news and perspectives in natural gas.

Sign up for The Stream’s daily email newsletter for natural gas delivered to your inbox

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Stream’s themes: Petrochemicals and more November news highlights

Avatar Joe Massaro
The Stream Themes: Natural gas updates for November.

Upstream and midstream developments have boosted Pennsylvania’s national energy standing. Now, the time has come for the state to conquer the downstream sector. The Shell Chemicals ethane cracker...

The Stream Themes: Natural gas updates for November.

Upstream and midstream developments have boosted Pennsylvania’s national energy standing. Now, the time has come for the state to conquer the downstream sector. The Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant helps accomplish that. The plant is a $6 billion investment for the state. But it’s also the beginning of a petrochemical revolution in the commonwealth.

That was the impetus behind a March 2017 study conducted by IHS Markit, a leading market research firm. The study was sponsored by Team Pennsylvania, a nonprofit partnership between the private and public sectors supporting education and economic development.

“One petrochemical facility in the form of Shell is great, but we think there is opportunity for much more here in Pennsylvania,” Team Pennsylvania President and CEO Ryan Unger told The Stream during a wide-ranging interview in November.

Now streaming: Energy updates from The Stream Team

Natural gas pipeline inspection dogs make a ‘ruff’ job easier:  These days, even dogs are finding natural gas-related jobs.

Canine pipeline inspections offer an alternative to traditional inspection methods, Susan Hagberg, president of CDIS K9 Pipeline Leak Inspection in Chicago Ridge, Illinois, told The Stream.

“It’s an environmentally friendly, cost-effective approach,” Hagberg said. “We quickly find the leak and save [the pipeline owner] money, all by using a trained dog.”

Shale spotlight: Natural gas in the news

Here’s a look at key energy headlines from November.

The Stream: What’s in the pipeline

Coming up in December, we’ll explore programs that make it more affordable to heat your home this winter. We’ll also identify some trends to look for in the energy industry as we head into the new year.

Want more updates on the energy industry? Sign up for The Stream’s newsletter, delivered daily to your inbox. It’s free!

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Natural gas pipeline inspection dogs make a ‘ruff’ job easier

Avatar Joe Massaro
Canine pipeline inspector

The increase in domestic natural gas production has created thousands of new energy jobs and opportunities, not just for humans but for dogs, too. Canine pipeline inspections offer...

The increase in domestic natural gas production has created thousands of new energy jobs and opportunities, not just for humans but for dogs, too.

Canine pipeline inspections offer an alternative to traditional inspection methods.

“It’s an environmentally friendly, cost-effective approach,” said Susan Hagberg, president of CDIS K9 Pipeline Leak Inspection in Chicago Ridge, Illinois. “We quickly find the leak and save [the pipeline owner] money, all by using a trained dog.”

Hagberg performed a demo of the company’s services at Midstream PA 2017 on Oct. 19 in State College, Pennsylvania. She also discussed canine natural gas pipeline inspections with The Stream.

Natural gas pipeline-inspecting dog

How did you become involved in pipeline leak detection?

Since 1998, I have worked with dogs. We have two other companies — one is Wild Goose Chase Inc., a pest control service, and the other is for bedbug inspections. I saw that there’s a need for these types of pipeline inspections. Our dogs are trained at the K9 Pipeline Training Academy, which is the go-to trainer for these kinds of inspections.

What is the natural gas pipeline inspection process?

Once we are dispatched to a site, we inject a special odorant into the pipeline so that it will rise to the surface. We walk the dog along the pipeline right of way. When the dog smells the odorant — and they can smell it coming from a hairpin crack — they begin to dig as if they are looking for a ball. The dig spot is where the leak is coming from, and a crew can dig the area and make the necessary repairs. We’ll continue to walk the right of way to detect any other leaks and repeat the process as necessary.

What kinds of dogs work best for pipeline inspections?

You’ll find that there are a lot of lab mixes in this type of work. We use more outdoorsy dogs that have a lot of drive, since there will be a lot of walking. These dogs have been training since they were puppies for this type of work.

Right now, they’re using dogs to find invasive plant species and endangered wildlife. It’s exciting some of the things canines are being used to find.

Natural gas pipeline-inspecting dog

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Stream themes: Shell ethane cracker, biosecurity and more October news highlights

Avatar Joe Massaro
The Stream Themes: Natural gas updates for November.

Dennis Yablonsky was on hand when the mid-Atlantic natural gas phenomenon began. Now, he ends his career with the Marcellus Shale’s biggest acquisition yet: the Shell Chemicals ethane...

The Stream Themes: Natural gas updates for October.

Dennis Yablonsky was on hand when the mid-Atlantic natural gas phenomenon began. Now, he ends his career with the Marcellus Shale’s biggest acquisition yet: the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

The $6 billion infusion into the western Pennsylvania economy — a harbinger of a manufacturing resurgence — was one of several topics Yablonsky, former CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, discussed with The Stream in October.

“The more we use our natural gas in the region, the more of the economic value we gain from it versus shipping it all out of here,” Yablonsky said.

Now streaming: October energy updates from The Stream Team

Here are three more of our top stories from October:

New study explores how to maximize Pennsylvania’s energy economy

Pennsylvania’s future is natural gas, according to PA Forge the Future, an initiative and study by Peoples Natural Gas and Chevron Appalachia. The detailed study lays out a “road map of the region’s economic growth,” said Stacey Olson, Chevron Appalachia president.

The study found that Pennsylvania’s GDP could increase to $780 billion within a decade if the state worked on developmental strategies and overcame deep-rooted challenges.

Natural gas, agribusiness join forces for biosecurity

Biosecurity has become a paramount concern for the natural gas and agricultural industries, thanks in no small part to the pipeline boom. Improving biosecurity methods is dependent on the two industries collaborating. Sunoco Pipeline and PennAg Industries Association did just that when they teamed to develop a biosecurity and training module.

Celebrating the future of manufacturing in Pennsylvania and the U.S.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development once reported that the manufacturing industry “is the foundation of Pennsylvania’s economy.” The commonwealth’s manufacturing industry is the eighth largest in the nation with an economic impact of $84 billion. The manufacturing resurgence was lauded by officials recognizing the Shell Chemicals cracker plant as playing a huge part in future developments.

Shale spotlight: Natural gas in the news

Here’s a look at key energy industry headlines from October.

The Stream: What’s in the pipeline

In the coming weeks, check back at The Stream for a story on how dogs are helping detect pipeline leaks, as well as an interview with Team Pennsylvania President and CEO Ryan Unger.

Want more updates on the natural gas industry? Sign up for The Stream’s newsletter, delivered daily to your inbox. It’s free!

Avatar Joe Massaro

Joe Massaro is based in Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office and has deep energy industry expertise. He previously served as the field director for a Pennsylvania-based oil and gas industry grassroots PR firm.

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Shell’s ethane cracker brings $6B boost to Pittsburgh region

Avatar Adam Pope
Dennis Yablonsky, former CEO of Allegheny Conference on Community Development

For Dennis Yablonsky, the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is more than just a $6 billion infusion into the western Pennsylvania economy. It’s the beginning...

For Dennis Yablonsky, the Shell Chemicals ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is more than just a $6 billion infusion into the western Pennsylvania economy. It’s the beginning of a manufacturing resurgence for the region.

“The more we use our natural gas in the region, the more of the economic value we gain from it versus shipping it all out of here,” the former CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development said during a recent interview.

 

Midstream natural gas investment: More work to be done

The upstream natural gas sector has been great to Pennsylvania since 2004, when Range Resources drilled that first well in the Marcellus Shale. However, while Pennsylvania has made strides in attracting more midstream investment, Yablonsky said, there’s more work to be done in the area, especially because billions of dollars are on the table.

“It doesn’t get a lot of play, but those billions of dollars create jobs, create purchases in the supply chain and, most importantly, it creates a network that will allow us to, when we get the gas out of the ground, get it to where the users can be,” Yablonsky said.

What would help in attracting more from the midstream sector is an ethane storage hub. A West Virginia University report found several sites in the tri-state area of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania that could support such a hub.

“There’s investment that would have to be made there, but more ethane storage would be a real positive development for us on the infrastructure side as well,” Yablonsky said.

Downstream natural gas investment: The last great frontier

Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia have not been the best at capturing the attention of downstream companies. It goes back to the point about natural gas use equating to a higher economic value. Yablonsky said if the desire is to have companies come to the region and stay, then as far as natural gas goes, the state needs to “use it or lose it.”

Yablonsky said Pennsylvania cannot rely strictly on wells and pipelines. “If all we do is take the gas out of the ground, separate it into its component parts, store it and then pipeline it out of here for use in other parts of the country or the world, this will be a temporary benefit that will not give us the full value we deserve,” he said.

Western Pennsylvania can get that full value, Yablonsky said, but it’s contingent on attracting more petrochemical and other downstream companies to the region. This might not be as difficult a task as it sounds. The area is lucrative to these companies, as Shell Chemicals’ investment has demonstrated, because of the proximity to desired customer bases.

“If you draw a 700-mile circle around Beaver County, you have [a radius containing] 70 percent of their customers,” Yablonsky said about one of Shell’s key reasons to locate its cracker plant in Beaver County.

Thailand-based PTT Global recently purchased 168 acres in Belmont County, Ohio, to build another ethane cracker plant. Yablonsky said PTT is locating there for the same reason as Shell: proximity to customers and resources.

The Shell and PTT investments put the region in the “first or second inning of the downstream game,” Yablonsky said, but it’s still early.

“This whole resurgence of manufacturing, as a result of our God-given natural gas resource, is a real blessing for the region,” Yablonsky said.

Looking back on natural gas growth

Yablonsky announced his retirement from the Allegheny Conference this year. Before his time as CEO, he was Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) secretary from 2003 to 2008. He has seen the natural gas industry grow from humble beginnings to one of the five key industries in Pennsylvania, according to the DCED.

What has impressed him the most about the industry is the innovation.

“The technology and processes they use today to drill wells is very different than what it was 10 years ago,” Yablonsky said. “They’re able to go deeper and wider laterals, be more precise in terms of what they’re looking for and generate more productive wells than they ever were before.”

Another thing that has impressed him is the industry’s ability to help others.

“We’ve provided a good job with benefits with a career path for people that never had it before,” Yablonsky said when talking about ShaleNET, a government-funded program to help job seekers find positions in the natural gas industry. “That’s not a story that gets told much about this industry.”

Avatar Adam Pope

Adam Pope is Senior Director of Bravo Group's Pittsburgh office. With extensive background in energy and experience in the public and private sector, Adam provides a comprehensive perspective on the industry landscape.

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