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Investments in US shale gas could create 500,000 jobs

By: Frank Esposito

May 21, 2013

WASHINGTON — A new report from the American Chemistry Council anticipates that almost 100 announced plastics and chemicals expansions could create more than 500,000 permanent jobs.

The report — released May 20 by Washington-based ACC — details 97 plastics and chemical projects that have been announced in the five years since natural gas supplies began to increase throughout North America. Those projects represent $71.7 billion in potential new U.S. investment and by 2020 could create 46,000 chemical industry jobs, 264,000 supplier industry jobs and 226,000 jobs in communities where workers spend their wages — for a total of 536,000 new jobs. Those jobs are expected to create $20 billion in federal state and local tax revenue by 2020.

Another 1.2 million temporary jobs would be created during a capital investment phase between 2010 and 2020, according to the report.

“The U.S. has become a magnet for chemical industry investment, a testament to the favorable environment created by America’s shale gas, as well as a vote of confidence in a bright natural gas outlook for decades to come,” ACC president and chief executive officer Cal Dooley said in the release.

ACC officials also stressed the importance of government policies, which, they said, “will strongly influence whether the U.S. is able to realize the shale gas opportunity.” According to ACC, needed government policies include:

- access to natural gas reserves on government and private lands,

- reliable infrastructure to transport supplies,

- timely permitting of new construction or expansion projects,

- implementation of responsible, state-based regulations for natural gas production.

New natural gas finds in areas such as the Barnett, Marcellus and Utica shale regions are expected to provide industry with low-cost feedstocks for many years to come. These supplies have prompted North American polyethylene resin maker to announce plans to add almost 18 billion pounds of new capacity over the next few years. Based on 2012 capacities, that level of expansion would equate to a 40 percent capacity increase.

Market watchers have said that this new capacity should lead to new PE processing capacity being added in North America, especially in the film and bag sector. New shale gas also could lead to capacity additions for PVC and polypropylene resin, although no announcements have been made regarding those materials.