2017-04-22 / Local

More plants to process Marcellus gas could come to Pennsylvania

BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN

Staff Writer

WYSOX TOWNSHIP — The $6 billion Shell ethane cracker plant, which is being built in Beaver County, is believed to be the largest private investment in Pennsylvania since World War II.

There could be additional ethane cracker plants, similar to Shell’s, constructed in the Marcellus Shale region, said Ryan Unger, president of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, who was the keynote speaker at the Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission’s annual meeting on Friday, which was held at the Wysox Fire Hall.

The Shell plant will process ethane — a component of Marcellus natural gas found in western Pennsylvania — so that it can be used to create plastic products, said Unger.

The ethane that is processed at the Shell plant and other ethane cracker plants that could locate in Pennsylvania will allow companies across Pennsylvania that manufacture plastic products to reduce their costs, he said. “This is a statewide opportunity,” Unger said.

A study completed last month, which was commissioned by Team Pennsylvania, showed that there is enough ethane in the region’s natural gas to allow for the construction of four additional ethane cracker plants similar to the Shell plant — three in the Marcellus Shale and one in the Utica Shale, Unger said.

An ethane cracker plant has been proposed for Belmont County, Ohio, and “all signs point to it going forward,” Unger said. An additional ethane cracker plant is proposed for West Virginia, he said.

But even if both the Ohio and West Virginia plants go forward, the remaining two plants could, conceivably, be built in Pennsylvania, he said.

Southwestern Pennsylvania would be an attractive place to locate additional ethane cracker plants because ethane in that part of the state is 30 percent cheaper than it is on average, he said. Also, many companies that manufacture plastic products are located within a 700-mile radius of southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Shell plant will support 6,000 construction jobs and have 600 permanent employees, he said.

Team Pennsylvania, which is a public-private partnership that works to create and retain jobs and which is co-chaired by the governor of Pennsylvania, commissioned IHS Markit to conduct the study. IHS Markit is headquartered in London, England, and has offices in the United States.

Team Pennsylvania is currently taking steps to try to bring additional ethane cracker plants to the Keystone State, Unger said.

Prisoners

The Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission (NTRPDC) is launching a pilot program that would help former jail inmates get jobs, said Frank Thompson, deputy director for workforce development at the NTRPDC

The program, called Fit4work, will offer a 24-hour class next month in Towanda that will teach former inmates and others “soft skills,” such as how to write a resume and interview for a job, the importance of coming to work on time, and working in a team environment, he said. Bradford County Action is operating the Fit4work program, he said.

While Fit4work is geared toward former jail inmates, anyone who might experience a barrier to obtaining employment, such as someone who has not worked in a long time, is welcome to participate in the program, he said.

“There is a lot of opportunity for second chance (employment),” Thompson added. “There are a lot of folks we can help get jobs.”

The NTRPDC is applying for government grant money to continue the Fit4work program, he said.

The NTRPDC is also in the second year of a program under which it sends five career counselors into 16 schools in its five-county service area, including all the school districts in Bradford County, he said.

The career counseling program, which is funded by the state, is needed because each guidance counselor who works for the school districts is responsible for 400 students, he said.

The career counselors that are sent into the schools help students explore what would be a good fit for them to do after they graduate from high school, he said.

James Loewenstein can be contacted at (570) 265-2151 ext. 1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.

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