Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pittsburgh Energy Boom

While Pittsburgh South struggles under the weight of the financial crisis, business for Westinghouse couldn't be better (hat tip Null Space). But the impressive growth of the nuclear reactor industry isn't the biggest story. For that, we return to the Marcellus shale natural gas rush:

"It's in the middle of the best place in the world to sell gas," said John Pinkerton, chairman and chief executive of Range Resources Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas. ...

... "It's like having one of the giant gas fields from the Middle East under Pittsburgh," said Pete Stark, a geologist and vice president of Colorado-based energy consultant IHS Inc.

Exploration of Marcellus shale is in the early stages as companies work to identify the best drilling prospects. It could be five or 10 years until production is fully engaged because there is a relative dearth of gas pipelines, rigs and trained workers in Appalachia to support the deeper, horizontal wells needed to extract gas from shale.

Perhaps the biggest bet is being made by Range Resources. The company has invested $700 million in the formation already, including a processing station just outside Houston that it brought online in October.
Southwestern Pennsylvania could see a boom in the neighborhood of what is currently going on in Alberta, the Canadian province so starved for talent that it has scoured American cities for immigrant graduates unable to secure a Green Card or even an H-1B visa. Both the Marcellus shale project and Westinghouse's new digs in Cranberry (suburb north of Pittsburgh) are ramping up at about the same time. The labor shortage is already apparent.

Pittsburgh will have to import most of the skilled workers, which should reverse current population trends. Ironic how Charlotte is facing dark days ahead while Pittsburgh is beginning another renaissance. A great time to celebrate a homecoming, eh?

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