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Economy and Business

Ohio is bidding for $2 billion cracker
Shell Oil's decision is weeks away

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze

Shell Oil is expected to announce within weeks where it will build a 2 billion dollar plant to convert a component of natural gas into a component of plastics.  WKSU’s M.L. Schultze says Ohio’s making a bid for the cracker, the latest outgrowth of “fracking” to promise thousands of jobs for the region.

SCHULTZE on cracking, fracking and jobs

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Crackers begin with oil or wet natural gas, and convert part of it into ethylene. That’s the stuff of  plastic bottles and bags. With fracking unearthing new deposits of cheap natural gas in the region, Shell wants to build its first new cracker in the U.S. in 30 years.

So far, the company has said only that the plant will be built in the Appalachian region. And Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are competing for it. Terry Fleming of the Ohio Petroleum Council says not a lot separates the states.

“West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania all share the Ohio River. We all have large shale areas and there are interstates and rail in all three states. So then it comes down to, I guess, what the governments of the three states, what packages they’re offering and it’s up to the company to determine which package is best.

A recent study by the American Chemistry Council estimates the plant could be worth as many as 17,000 jobs. But John Russo of the Labor Studies Program at Youngstown State University, recommends caution in accepting such estimates.


“There is quite a bit of evidence to this point already that actual jobs produced are not as high as being suggested. So we have to be modest in our approach in terms of how many actual jobs are being created in the area. For example in the Youngstown area and in Northeast Ohio, a lot of the jobs that are currently coming are people being employed from Oklahoma and Texas.”


Estimates of jobs connected to the fracking industry overall range up to from 20,000 to 200,000. And Russo says they don’t take into accounts jobs in industries like wind and solar that will be lost because of cheap natural gas.



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