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“I think transportation’s a big one, but it’s coming a little bit later,” said Odum. “More near term is probably moving natural gas into chemicals manufacturing.” This shift underlines a trend seen in many third-quarter earnings reports issued by supermajors this year: upstream operations have suffered against the current economic headwinds, and other revenue streams need to be explored.
For its part, Shell is building a chemical plant in the Appalachian region of the United States. Shell’s cracker will process ethane from Marcellus natural gas to produce ethylene, a primary building block for petrochemicals. The cost of construction could be as much as $2 billion, and the facility could bring over 12,000 jobs to economically-ravaged portions of Appalachia.
“Abundant, affordable domestic natural gas resources have provided the U.S. petrochemical industry with a substantial competitive advantage,” said Exxon Mobil Chemical Company senior vice president Lynne Lachenmyer in a November press release. “The ability to tap into vast shale resources right here in the U.S. is an opportunity that we have to develop. We are in the middle of an industry in transformation,” she said.
Exxon Mobil has filed permit applications for a petrochemical expansion at its Baytown Olefins Plant in Texas, where the plan is to add another ethane cracker. If developed, the project could create 10,000 temporary construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs. Exxon Mobil predicts a multiplier effect could create a total of 3,700 jobs in the community because of the project.
But transportation and chemical processing are just two of the four major growth avenues natural gas…
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