Carpe Diem

Natural Gas Boom Energizing The Chemical Industry

“U.S. chemical companies are the latest beneficiaries of the nation’s natural gas drilling boom. Long focused on cheap gas sources elsewhere in the world, companies are now looking to expand here. A surplus of natural gas has pushed down prices, making it more attractive for chemical companies that use lots of gas to reopen shuttered plants and build new ones.
 
“We wouldn’t have to go back very far — literally just seven or eight years — and the picture for the industry here in North America was pretty uncertain,” says Randy Woelfel, CEO of NOVA Chemicals in Calgary, Alberta. He says high oil prices sent a lot of petrochemical manufacturing overseas to the Middle East and Asia. But now, low natural gas prices and the ethane-rich Marcellus Shale have changed everything.

“That means … that we’ll be back in the hiring business, rather than the consolidation and survival/cost-cutting mode that NOVA was clearly in for much of the last decade,” Woelfel says.”

 
Related: This December 2011 study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, “Shale gas: A renaissance in US manufacturing?” predicts the following:
  • U.S. manufacturing companies (chemicals, metals and industrial) could employ approximately one million more workers by 2025 because of abundant, low-priced natural gas.
  • Lower feedstock and energy cost could help U.S. manufacturers reduce natural gas expenses by as much as $11.6 billion annually through 2025.

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