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FACT SHEET MAY 2019

Triple Threat: Petrochemicals and Plastics, Power Plants,


and Exports Drive a New Fracking Boom
)UDFNLQJKDVXQOHDVKHGPRUHQDWXUDOJDVWKDQWKHLQGXVWU\FDQXVHFXWWLQJLQWRSURȴWVDQG
putting frackers out of business. To alleviate the gas glut and save the industry, gas producers are
relying on a new wave of dirty infrastructure that would transform gas into petrochemicals and
plastics, burn it for dirty energy or transport it to overseas markets. If built, these facilities will
lock in both fracking and toxic facilities for decades.

Fracked gas production surged more than 15-fold from


WRWKHȴUVWKDOIRI1 This additional gas has
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lowest levels in decades, now 60 percent lower than
LQ2 Producers fear that without infrastructure to
relieve the glut, drilling and fracking will slow dramati-
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markets (exports), new end users (petrochemical and
power plants) and new products (plastics) to drive up gas
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Petrochemicals and Plastics


In addition to methane, fracking has produced an oversup-
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has been a boon for the plastics industry, which relies on
petrochemical manufacturing to turn ethane into plastics5
More fracking means more ethane and more plastics and
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PRUHGULOOLQJ

Investors are lining up to build new factories that trans- Gas-Fired Power Plants
IRUPIUDFNLQJE\SURGXFWVLQWRSODVWLFV6ΖQWKHFKHPL- In addition to turning gas into plastics, a push is under way
cal industry was slated to spend over $202 billion on 333 WREXUQJDVDWQHZJDVȴUHGSRZHUSODQWV7KH86'HSDUW-
IDFLOLWLHVWRWDNHDGYDQWDJHRIVKDOHJDV7 This investment is PHQWRI(QHUJ\ '2( SURMHFWVWKDWQHZJDVȴUHG
targeted primarily for Appalachia and the Gulf Coast, and JHQHUDWRUVZLOOEHEXLOWEHWZHHQDQG10 In 2017
could drive a 40 percent increase in global plastics produc- DQGDORQHQHZJDVSODQWVZRXOGSURYLGHSHUFHQW
WLRQRYHUWKHQH[WGHFDGH PRUHHQHUJ\WKDQLQ11 This added electric generation
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Unfortunately, plants that convert natural gas into petro- KRXVHKROGV12
chemicals emit massive amounts of air and climate pollut-
ants, and pump out mountains of toxic plastics,WKHPDMRULW\ The demand for electricity is not rising as fast as new gas
RIZKLFKDUHLPPHGLDWHO\WKURZQDZD\9 plants are coming online, creating the potential for new gas

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Triple Threat: Petrochemicals and Plastics, Power Plants, and Exports Drive a New Fracking Boom

SRZHUSODQWVWRFUHDWHDSRZHUVXSSO\JOXW13 New gas plants &XUUHQWO\WKH8QLWHG6WDWHVFDQOLTXHI\DQGH[SRUWELOOLRQ


drive additional gas drilling, cement the dominance of fossil FXELFIHHWRIQDWXUDOJDVSHUGD\DERXWSHUFHQWRI86JDV
fuels in our energy grid, lock in greenhouse gas emissions production21ΖQWKHUHZHUHRQO\DFWLYH/1*H[SRUW
DQGGLVSODFHLQYHVWPHQWVLQUHQHZDEOHV14 facilities in the country, but 22 more either were already
being built or were approved for construction, and another
Export Terminals ZHUHSHQGLQJIHGHUDOUHYLHZ22 By 2040, LNG exports
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The industry also hopes to tighten the domestic market
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IRUQDWXUDOJDVE\H[SRUWLQJLW7KHVHH[SRUWVZRXOGVXSHU
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H[SRUWVȴOOHGE\JDVIURPQHZZHOOV156RPHJDVLVH[SRUWHG Conclusion
by pipeline to Mexico and Canada, and the rest is shipped The new petrochemical factories, power plants and LNG
E\WDQNHUIURPH[SRUWWHUPLQDOVWRRYHUVHDVPDUNHWV16 exports will cushion the fracking industry by sopping up the
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To be suitable for ocean transport, natural gas must be the buildout of fracked gas infrastructure, the industry
VXSHUFRROHGDQGFRPSUHVVHGDWVSHFLDOWHUPLQDOV17 Lique- would likely face more severe economic headwinds and be
faction facilities emit large amounts of air pollution, damage XQDEOHWRUHLQYHVWLQPRUHGULOOLQJDQGH[SORUDWLRQ
marine habitats, release dangerous toxins into the water
DQGOHDNFRORVVDODPRXQWVRIPHWKDQH Tankers and facili- Instead of doubling down on new fossil fuel facilities, we
WLHVDUHDOVRSURQHWRFDWDVWURSKLFH[SORVLRQV19 PXVWLQYHVWLQFOHDQUHQHZDEOHHQHUJ\7HFKQRORJ\IRUD
large-scale transition to renewables at low cost exists24 —
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Endnotes
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