With news of hydraulic fracturing regulations to be released soon, petrochemical manufacturers are making sure residents know of the energy opportunities throughout the state.
“Illinois is in a unique position because of its energy portfolio,” said Sarah Magruder Lyle, vice president of strategic initiatives for American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. “With the exception of hydropower, this is a state that produces and uses just about every kind of energy there is and with four refineries and plants and most of the production happening in this part of the state, it’s very important to us.”
Following a stop in Effingham to speak with the East Central Illinois Development Corporation, Magruder Lyle said the key to taking advantage of the opportunities offered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as well as other uses of energy is in job creation. However, she said many people are focused on the front end of the process while many of the job opportunities come from refinery and manufacturing of petrochemical products, such as plastics.
“Our goal is to really draw that connection,” she said. “The opportunity is there. Illinois has started to put the pieces together to make sure hydraulic fracturing is done responsibly so that Illinois doesn’t miss an opportunity.”
Creating the connection between employees at all levels of the industry isn’t the only piece the group wants people to see. Effingham’s location, as well as easy access to interstate highways, railroads and proximity to businesses that use petrochemical materials, most notably Sherwin-Williams in Flora and Effingham, were also important.
“For Effingham, you’re the gateway to a burgeoning oil and gas industry that sits 40 or 50 miles away,” said Jonathan Perman, a public affairs consultant for AFPM. “It offers a great opportunity for residents of Effingham and neighboring communities not only to benefit businesses but to be the recipient of what comes out of the petrochemical industry.”
Magruder Lyle said communities will be more receptive to petrochemical opportunities as the process begins. She cited financial successes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which saw burgeoning communities after refineries and petrochemical manufacturing opportunities were set up. She said making sure lawmakers, economic development bodies and business leaders are supportive of growth is important and that critics of the programs need to focus on the safety and care of the programs.
“A lot of these discussions are based on emotion and not based on fact,” she said.