When Noble Energy partnered with Consol Energy in 2011 the company banked on growth in the Marcellus Shale natural gas region. And it paid off: the internationally operating company is directing its attention to Southwestern Pennsylvania, announcing its new Marcellus Regional headquarters at Southpointe II in Washington County to be completed first quarter 2015. It’s the latest move from formerly smaller companies who are dedicating more capital and resources to natural gas extraction. Noble Energy Chief Operating Officer Dave Stover said Tuesday that,
“…(Noble Energy’s) Marcellus production increased 65 percent in 2013…(we expect) a 90 percent increase this year. (Marcellus Shale) has contributed 9 percent of our total volumes. And over the next five years, production is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 46 percent. (Our) employment numbers have grown from 12 in 2011 to 147 today, 86 percent of whom were hired from the local region.”
The ability to tout local jobs numbers brought Governor Tom Corbett back to his regional home, telling media and Noble employees that “70 percent of Marcellus Shale jobs are held by Pennsylvanians,” adding that the building’s construction was an “entirely private venture with no state help.”
“We’ve recovered almost every job that was lost in Pennsylvania during the Great Recession,” Corbett said.
Gov. Corbett plays both sides when it comes to energy employment numbers. Corbett told Radio PA’s Brad Christman he “disputes the use of statistics” when it comes to the claim that Pennsylvania dropped from 7th to 48th in job creation since he took office. Yet Corbett used similar statistics and sources to criticize former Governor Ed Rendell, telling WFMZ-TV in Allentown, ”We want to be the standard of excellence. We want to be number one. But we can’t do it with a tax rate that is the 11th worst in the entire country, job creation which is 47th.”
The governor said at Noble’s announcement that when considering the entire energy sector, Pennsylvania employs “400,000 people directly tied to the energy sector.” For gas jobs, he says there are nearly 200,000. That claim also includes ancillary workers tied to the industry who may have been employed prior to the gas boom, according to the Associated Press. According to the Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call, core gas jobs account for “less than 1 percent of of the state’s nearly 5.8 million jobs.”
The fact remains: international companies are getting local in Pennsylvania. And local companies are looking to expand. Canonsburg-based Rice Energy recently went public on the NYSE, as the largely family-run company looks to spend $1.1 billion in 2014. $386 million will reportedly be spent on lease acquisitions–some of which that other companies like Range Resources and Consol Energy are releasing because they are going out of primary term, or not drilling or producing gas on lessors’ land within a contracted time period. Also according to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Rice is planning to close on a $110 million pipeline in March connecting Greene and Washington counties to the Texas Eastern pipeline. And while Governor Corbett wouldn’t say how, he said he’s “confident” from talks that happened in the past two months with Shell that a proposed ethane cracker plant in Beaver County will come through.
So while Governor Corbett’s jobs claims are hard to pin down–especially in a campaign year–he’s correct in saying the ‘Energy Capital of the East’ is in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Companies are so busy they’re playing catchup: ‘landmen’ are re-negotiating expired lease contracts and more piping infrastructure is being built to meet the demand of drilling and extraction.
Following the tumultuous legal path of Act 13 it’s almost assured that gas extraction policy will be a centerpiece of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. Though we have to wait and see what kinds of statistics the candidates will use to argue for election.