The state Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development convened the second of two informational hearings Wednesday, April 14 in Harleysville, Montgomery County, as part of a review of critical infrastructure in Pennsylvania. The first day focused on technology while the second and final panel looked at energy infrastructure and the role it plays in powering the state’s economy.
Among those testifying during Day 2 was Jim Snell, Business Manager for Steamfitters Local 420, which covers the city of Philadelphia and its collar counties, including the Allentown and Reading areas. Steamfitters Local 420 is a member of the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance.
“Domestic energy and the life-sustaining products it creates have never been more critical than they are today,” Snell said. “From life-saving ventilators, protective masks, and medicines to reliable heat and power for health-care facilities, our domestic oil and natural gas operators are providing the tools necessary to fight COVID-19. And Pennsylvania energy workers should be celebrated for the role they’ve played in our response and recovery efforts.”
The hearing looked at how important the petrochemical industry has been in management of this pandemic, as well as the larger role energy plays in everyday life for consumers and businesses alike. Beyond health care, however, petrochemicals are used in a bewildering array of household products: Carpeting. Crayons. Detergents. Dyes. Milk jugs. Pantyhose. Perfume.
“You may not like it, or you simply don’t want to admit it, but the continued safe and responsible operation and regulated development of these power sources is essential to our well-being, and they remain the foundation for the transition we all want to see one day,” Snell said.
Other testifiers included Shell, Energy Transfer and Monroe Energy.
Shell’s multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is expected to be completed next year, according to the company. The petrochemical complex is now more than 70% complete and will likely be fully operational sometime in 2022, employing hundreds of skilled laborers and helping to fuel a manufacturing renaissance in western Pennsylvania.
Monroe Energy is a merchant refiner in Trainer, Delaware County. Merchant refiners are generally characterized by the small size of their wholesale and retail segments relative to their refining segments, but absolutely essential to the niche markets they serve and the competitiveness of the customers that rely on them.
Energy Transfer is building the Mariner East pipeline network and repurposing the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex. Total investment in Pennsylvania for the construction of all three pipelines, the associated Marcus Hook Industrial Complex renovations and the fractionation facility is expected to be more than $5 billion, according to independent consultant Econsult Solutions.
The Mariner East projects, the fractionation facility and the associated improvements at MHIC will produce $140 million to $210 million of ongoing annual economic impacts in the commonwealth, supporting 360 to 530 direct, indirect and induced jobs with earnings from $30 million to $45 million.
“What do all these actions have in common? All of them rely on pipelines,” said Snell, a leader inside PEIA. “This pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves — and about the world around us. What many are beginning to realize is that pipelines don’t simply deliver products that are essential components to transportation or heating fuels, but that the byproducts they transport provide the feedstock needed to manufacture all sorts of medical supplies and PPE.”