Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Need Another Reason to Like Natural Gas?

The U.S. is developing a love/hate relationship with natural gas.  The love comes from the obvious: cleaner, domestic, abundant, etc.  The hate mostly comes from the folks scared of hydraulic fracturing who have made huge inroads in the public consciousness, peddling fear at every turn.  You can't read an article about natural gas without some kind of disclaimer about fracking.  Unfortunately, journalists have grown lazy and are now forgetting to mention that there is no proof that fracking impacts groundwater.  No doubt that methane has entered some wells, but the connection to fracking simply is not there.

But I'm always keen to know more reasons to like natural gas.  The Houston Chronicle published one such reason: the greater availability of natural gas and NGLs might lead to a resurgence of the chemical industry in the U.S.  As a feedstock to many chemical plants, affordable and abundant natural gas and liquids like ethane are important drivers to a chemical plant's economic viability.  In recent years, the chemical industry has been shuttering plants in the U.S. and shifting production to the Middle East with its cheap resources, but the resurgence in the gas industry with shale drilling has many chemical companies looking at restarting closed plants or investing in new production facilities.  That means jobs, capital spending, exports (or at least the reduction of imports) and economic growth... all brought to you by natural gas.

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