Summit focused on shale industry set Sept. 11

The shale revolution is underway and it may have the power to revitalize the entire region, according to Lance Hummer, executive director of the Keystone Community Education Council.

The Council is part of the Northwest Pennsylvania Oil and Gas HUB Taskforce, which will hold a summit called “Growing the Petrochemical Industry in Western Pennsylvania” at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Cross Creek Resort near Titusville.

While fracking has been the subject of controversy over environmental concerns, Hummer said the industry is well regulated.

“There’s always the environmental concern, and that needs to be there,” Hummer said. “But given how well it’s regulated, companies have taken the stance that they don’t want to get caught up in any kind of fine, so they go above and beyond what’s expected.”

The shale revolution he described is the result of improved fracking technology in recent years that allows companies to bring raw materials up from the shale.

The summit is open to the public and will include speakers from the Plastic Industry Association, the American Chemistry Council, the Chemical Industry Council, Peoples Gas, the Tri-State Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association.

“We are now the most profitable place to build a petrochemical plant,” Hummer said. “Gas is cheaper, because it’s right underneath us.”

Shale Crescent USA says the tri-state area ranks third after the United States and Russia in natural gas production.

“We’re now producing more than the Middle East,” Hummer said. “This is amazing because of all the products made from natural gas.”

Products include pharmaceuticals, plastics and fertilizers, to name a few.

The ethane cracker plant under construction in Beaver County is just the beginning, Hummer said. Once the pipelines are in place, manufacturing plants and other businesses may follow.

“Everybody’s interested in building the economy and attracting people back to the region with family sustaining career opportunities,” Hummer said. “We’ve had nothing like this since the downturn 30 years ago when we lost the refineries.”

Speakers at the task force’s January summit said they expect the ethane plant, due to be completed in 2022, to usher in a new oil boom similar to that of the 1850s.

Task force members predict that the construction jobs of today will lead to the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow and finally to service and retail jobs.

Hummer encouraged entrepreneurs to attend the summit to learn how they can plan for the opportunities to come.

“We want to get people geared to the point where they understand and believe in this opportunity,” Hummer said. “We can bring it back to the area that started the oil and gas industry.”