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Gas to fuel Wyo. jobs boost

June 19, 2012 in Events, Features, News, Opinion

Unconventional natural gas plays will fuel a boost in Wyoming jobs during the next decade, according to an industry-funded report from analysis firm IHS Global Insight. Such plays include coal-bed methane, shale and “tight sands” formations.

Wyoming will add nearly 11,000 jobs from 2010 to 2015 due to the gas development and gain an additional 33,000 jobs by 2035, according to the report, which was sponsored by the industry trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

The study examined job boosts in terms of total jobs created by development, which can include nongas support and supply positions, among others, and economic activity, which is essentially a way of describing spending on products or services due to an activity.

The study authors examined 58 unconventional gas plays across the U.S., focusing in Wyoming primarily on the productive formations in the Upper Green River Basin.

The study’s authors didn’t consider a number of “tight sand” formations seeing increased interest by producers in Wyoming, particularly in Converse County and southern Campbell County. That means the study’s estimates for Wyoming could be low.

“There’s a lot of upside as those are investigated and developed and brought to bear,” said John Larson, public sector vice president for IHS Consulting and a co-author of the report.

The Wyoming job and tax boost is mirrored by IHS’s numbers for the U.S. as a whole. Unconventional gas activity will zoom from 53 percent of total U.S. gas production in 2010 to 79 percent in 2035, the firm estimated. At present U.S. consumption rates of 56 billion cubic feet a day, Larson said the unconventional gas plays are proving their worth to consumers.

“We have easily a 100-year supply of affordable, stable natural gas,” he said. “And that is eye-opening.”

Larson said the report illustrated an interesting conclusion: Unconventional gas plays are now in more places in the U.S. and those who supply those in the plays are spread in many nonproducing states.

“The traditional energy states are still there, but it’s the rise of these other states” that is particularly noteworthy, he said.

“It’s an industry with very broad supplier networks,” he said. “Those supplier networks are overwhelmingly supplied domestically. So a dollar spent here stays here.”

In an earlier report, IHS noted a continuing low price for natural gas — the bane of Wyoming producers and the state’s coffers — could have a beneficial side.

Low gas prices will keep electricity rates low, boosting the competitiveness of domestic manufacturers by 2.9 percent by 2017 and 4.7 percent by 2035, compared to a scenario without the booming production of unconventional gas.

The study is one of several conducted by IHS Global Insight and sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance. Larson said ANGA got to preview the report, but IHS authored it, used its own methodology, owns all the content and data and was the final editor of what the report said.

“We believe we deliver an independent, data-driven model-based insight into this key industry,” he said.

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