Pennsylvania is a state that has seen both economic ebbs and flows tied with its industries. The state that is famously credited for supplying the steel that built the nation’s great cities and the coal used to power industry. Though more recently, Western Pennsylvania is better known as the home to many giants in medicine and technology, the state still plays an integral role in providing for the nation’s materials and energy needs.
Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and deeper Utica shale plays have the potential to provide cities across the globe with energy. Though not a green source of power, natural gas is a cleaner power source that can be used while the race to reliable and affordable renewable energy drives onwards. It is known that electrical generation via natural gas produces up to 60% less carbon emissions than coal generation, with plants costing volumes less than alternatives like nuclear.
The Keystone State is currently the second largest producer of natural gas, responsible for 5.39 Tcf in 2017, or 19.7% of the nation’s total gas production. The state’s production is second only behind Texas, where unconventional gas drilling was developed and widely utilized years before those technologies were brought into PA. Because of these drilling technologies combined with efficiency techniques and technologies that continue to be developed, Marcellus shale gas production has been marked with rapid growth. Given the growing production numbers, Pennsylvania is poised to become the nation’s largest producer.
Pennsylvania is not the only beneficiary of the gas boom. The United States is poised to be a net exporter of energy, largely thanks to its abundance of natural gas, with Pennsylvania’s resources fulfilling these export demands. There are also domestic benefits. Pennsylvania’s supplies offer resource-choked states like New York and much of the North Atlantic region a cheaper alternative for electrical and heat generation.
What is missing is the infrastructure to do so. LNG pipelines have become a controversial centerpiece of conversation in the United States. However, if properly regulated and inspected, these pipelines offer a lifeline for states in dire straits for energy, and a massive economic opportunity for Pennsylvania to become an exporter internationally and domestically. While renewables, especially solar energy, are gearing up to be the future of energy in the States, Pennsylvania plays a vital role in the energy landscape until that day comes.