Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) resources are creating opportunities for growth in the plastics industry throughout the state. Ethane and propane – two important NGL feedstocks for petrochemical processing – are highly cost competitive compared to other global production centers, including the U.S. Gulf Coast, Western and Eastern Canada, and the Middle East. Production forecasts indicate that natural gas and NGL production in the Marcellus and Utica Shale play will continue to increase and will account for 40% of U.S. production by 2030, solidifying the region as a top NGL producer. The abundance of NGLs in the region, in combination with specialized workforce training and plastics engineering programs, and proximity to key U.S. consumer markets can translate into significant competitive advantages for plastics companies located in Pennsylvania.
Plastics in PA
See how abundant, low-cost natural gas resources, specialized plastics engineering and technology programs, and proximity to top U.S. markets are attracting companies from around the world to locate in the Keystone State.
An independent study produced by industry analysts at IHS Markit states that the Marcellus and Utica region has the supply and the means to recover enough ethane to support the development of an additional four world-scale ethane crackers to produce polyethylene (PE), a key resin and foundational building block for a wide variety of plastics products.
This would be in addition to the planned Shell ethane cracker plant in Southwestern Pennsylvania announced in 2016. This new facility will be an anchor for a new petrochemical hub in the U.S. Northeast, and is expected to produce 1.6 million tonnes of PE per year. The attraction of additional ethane crackers in the region will increase PE production. For plastics companies making food packaging, containers, automotive components and more, a shorter and more dependable supply chain offering a local low-cost source of polyethylene will be of great benefit.
Workforce & Education
Pennsylvania has two of only six accredited plastics engineering technology programs in the United States. Penn State Erie and Pennsylvania College of Technology’s plastics engineering programs are accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
PennState Behrend’s School of Engineering offers undergraduate degrees in plastics-specific majors, focusing on the skills and techniques needed to understand the design plastics’ components and products, processing methods, and materials.
The plastics industry also has access to workforce development programs through the Plastics Training Academy. Hands-on plastics workshops are held in the 10,500 square-foot plastics processing lab – which is the largest, most comprehensive plastics training lab in the United States. Customized training workshops and seminars are offered through the Plastics Training Academy and offer programs for project, process, tooling, quality, and manufacturing engineers, technicians, and designers, as well as operators, team leaders, supervisors, management, and other operational personnel.
The Plastics Innovation and Resource Center (PIRC) at the Pennsylvania College of Technology offers services to companies in the plastics industry around the world. Working in partnership with businesses, PIRC offers training and research & development services to plastics processors, resin suppliers, mold builders, and equipment manufacturers.
PIRC has to two plastics Centers of Excellence – one in Rotational Molding, and the other in Thermoforming – and offers the Global Standards for Plastics Certification (GSPC) training program endorsed by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE). This certification curriculum is recognized in dozens of countries around the world and is considered to be the most thorough training and certification system available to the plastics industry.