NPRA ’11: Optimism, worries surround US shale gas reserves

26 March 2011 23:46  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--The US petrochemicals industry has high hopes for cheap feedstock from abundant shale gas reserves, but worries persist over whether government regulation could dampen the shale gas outlook, a top industry official said on Saturday.

Jim Cooper, vice president for petrochemicals at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said natural gas liquids from reserves such as the Marcellus Shale in the eastern US could give the industry a boost, with states even vying to become the location of the country’s first new cracker in many years.

Speaking on the eve of the 36th annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), Cooper mentioned Pennsylvania as a state with the necessary infrastructure for such a project, given the right circumstances.

However, development of new shale gas reserves and petrochemical production will require an appropriate regulatory environment, Cooper said.

He voiced concerns over the formation of a panel by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to examine the groundwater impact of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which is used to extract shale reserves. Fracking has been controversial in recent years amid concerns it may lead to extensive groundwater contamination by the chemicals that are used in the process.

“They are pulling together toxicologists, public health people and folks like that but they don’t have people with actual fracking experience,” Cooper said. “They are going to talk about building predictive models and things of that nature. I don’t know how that can be done without actual experience.”

“It is almost like a setup where there is a solution looking for a problem,” Cooper said.

Sponsored by NPRA, the IPC runs through Tuesday, 29 March.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Brian Ford
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