Available, Affordable, and Booming

Cheap and abundant natural gas from shale has become a catalyst for investment and economic development in the United States across a wide range of industrial sectors. A study published in July by researchers at the University of Michigan ("Shale Gas: A Game-Changer for U.S. Manufacturing") finds that the shale revolution has the potential to “revive the chemical industry and bolster energy-intensive manufacturing sectors such as aluminum, steel, paper, glass and food.”

While the shale revolution’s impacts are widespread, perhaps no industry has benefitted more than American chemical companies. The UM study found “the shale gas boom has already reversed the U.S. trade balance for the chemical industry from a $9.4 billion deficit in 2005 to a $3.4 billion surplus in 2013. The trade surplus in basic chemicals excluding pharmaceuticals was $41.3 billion in 2013.”

American companies are growing their operations and creating thousands of jobs while foreign chemical companies are rushing to our shores to benefit from the shale gas revolution. According to the American Chemistry Council, “foreign companies account for 62 percent of announced capital investments in the U.S. chemical industry, the largest ever influx from other nations.”

Bloomberg recently reported that chemical manufacturers, including BASF SE of Germany and Braskem of Brazil, “plan to invest as much as $72 billion in U.S. plants, as they become increasingly convinced natural gas will remain cheap and abundant." According to their top North American executive Hans-Ulrich Engel, “BASF, the world’s largest chemical maker, is confident its U.S. facilities will benefit from cost advantages over plants in other regions as U.S. gas reserves have surged to more than 100 years of supply.”

Companies based in Asia are eager to get involved as well. Reutersrecently reported that a “Chinese chemical firm plans to build a $1.85 billion plant by the Mississippi River to make methanol out of shale gas, becoming one of the latest foreign investors to capitalize on the U.S. shale boom.” This plant will not be the only one of its kind, “as many as a dozen world-scale, gas-based plants are expected to start up in the United States, including some built by Asian firms like Formosa Petrochemical Corp, to leverage on cheap shale gas as feedstock…over the next five to 10 years.”

The American shale boom is a magnet for investment from around the world and technologies developed right here in North Texas are creating an economic bounty that was unthinkable just a few years ago. 

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