The next possible big thing in the natural gas sector is an ethane cracker, or ethane refinery. Today, Shell Chemical LP announced the signing of a land option agreement to build in a new ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania. This economic-boosting plant will be the first ethane cracker built in the United States since 2001.
The refinery will require a $1 billion investment and more than 300 acres of land in the Appalachian region.
What is an ethane cracker?
An ethane cracker removes ethane from natural gas by breaking up hydrogen and carbon molecules into smaller molecule chains. This process creates ethylene, a compound used in the manufacturing of plastic. Plastic was initially manufactured overseas because of the natural gas shortage in the United States. Now with the abundance of natural gas thanks to Marcellus Shale, we have a new opportunity to explore this growing industry.
What makes now the perfect time to restart manufacturing plastic in the U.S.?
Progress in shale gas development has brought a significant decrease in natural gas prices. Natural gas is vital to the plastic industry. Ethane crackers convert natural gas into elements of plastic, such as ethane. Abundant natural gas and lower prices make it easier for suppliers to produce ethylene.
This is a 20- to 30-year economic development opportunity that should bring thousands of jobs to the area and the oil and gas sector, but also to the chemical industry and their supply chain. According to a CBS news report, the ethane cracker will create 12,000 jobs and provide more than $600 million in annual wages.
What does this mean for the construction industry?
Thousands of construction jobs will be created through building and running an ethane cracker facility. Additional jobs should also result from ancillary projects surrounding this plant.
We see this as an opportunity for temporary and permanent component construction. Major construction projects like this can take years to build. Site managers will need temporary office trailers for daily operations as well as secure storage to protect job site materials
We are enthusiastic about Shell putting wheels in motion to construct of a new ethane cracker and the economic benefits and job growth that will follow.