MERCER CO., Pa. (WKBN) – The benefits to mineral rights drilling are stacking up and Mercer County is ready to take advantage.
Cheap natural gas prices offer a world of opportunity and drilling companies have been the biggest beneficiaries so far.
Shell has committed to building a cracker plant in Monaca in Beaver County, opening the door for more development. The petrochemical plant is expected to bring 6,000 construction jobs to western Pennsylvania.
“For us in Mercer County, it’s huge,” said Randy Seitz from Penn-Northwest Development. “We think this will be a great opportunity to start bringing young people back, growing the population and helping the community to prosper.”
A cracker facility takes natural gas and refines it into a group of chemicals used in thousands of everyday products.
“Cosmetics, laundry detergent, diapers, clothing, all of these things are produced from derivatives of polyethylene,” he said.
Companies that want to be closer to the supply and save money could now expand into Mercer County. Seitz thinks the county is in a great location.
“You can reach about half of the U.S. population within a day’s drive from Mercer County. Our land costs and property costs are pretty low, we’ve got a great workforce.”
Penn-Northwest has visited other cracker facilities in the U.S. and Canada, taking notes on what is within 50 miles of those plants.
That gives it a head-start on marketing efforts for Mercer County.
“We’ve been creating a database of targets that we’re ready to go after and now that the announcement has been made, now it’s time to start visiting with those companies.”
Seitz points to a Johnson & Johnson facility in Bradford County that makes diapers. It bought 1,000 acres, built its own power source for the plant and hired hundreds of workers.
“If all we located was one facility just like that in Mercer County, I think we’d be quite pleased. However, I think it’s going to be greater than that.”
Mercer County feels its has plenty of water and low-cost utilities to offer.
“Now we have this feed material, this polyethylene available at a low cost, low transportation cost, great land, great labor, we’re an ideal location,” Seitz said.
Hethinks any company that moves in will be there as long as the gas supply underground lasts, which is supposed to be for the next hundred years.