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Experts: Natural gas is going to be big for economy

LyondellBasell credits it for plant’s survival, Aux Sable eyes expansion

The Grundy Economic Development Council gathered the experts Thursday to share with the community the impact of natural gas locally, in the state and across the nation.

A luncheon was held where Jeff White, vice president of U.S. operations for Aux Sable Liquid Products, and Brian Angwin, Morris site manager for LyondellBasell presented.

“There was a time when our prospect activity was 80 percent logistics and 20 percent manufacturing,” said Nancy Norton Ammer, CEO of the GEDC. “And those have switched, mostly driven because of the price of natural gas.”

At Aux Sable, they process natural gas to make it into salable products, said White. In 12 years, the Channahon facility has processed more than 7.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is enough energy to heat about 8 million homes a year.

Since 2005, there has been a massive growth in the U.S. production of natural gas, said White, and this is because of how natural gas from shale plays domestically.

Shale gas is natural gas that is trapped within shale formations. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be sources of petroleum and natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Through “Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘ fracking,’ the rock formation can be fractured to stimulate the flow of natural gas or oil, increasing the volumes that can be recovered, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website. “Fractures are created by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure down a wellbore and into the target rock formation.”

Illinois legislators recently approved a fracking bill setting standards for the procedure to protect drinking water and other effects on people.

“The legislation that just passed in Illinois is the most progressive in the United States,” said White.

These progressions will make the U.S. an exporter of natural gas and the liquids taken from the gas, he said. Southern Illinois shale has the potential of putting Illinois on the frontline of this.

“The projections are that this will create more than 45,000 jobs and $9 billion in economic investment,” he said.

Because of this future potential, Aux Sable is already looking at the possibility of expanding.

Angwin of LyondellBasell chemical company said although the future cannot be predicted, his company is very optimistic of the potential natural gas has for the country and for manufacturing as a whole.

“Ten years ago, we were having serious conversations on whether to continue to operate the Morris facility,” he said. “Look where we are today . . . we are making some products here in Morris, Ill., and shipping to China. We’ve become worldwide competitive.”

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