What if the Far East Ran Marcellus?

January 21, 2013 by
Filed under: Marcellus, Marcellus Shale, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized 

What’s more frustrating? Trying to devise new products you can introduce to the shale industry or counting all the obstacles you face to grow your business? Do you ever wonder how another culture or society might tackle your opportunity and challenge in the Marcellus Shale?  Two recent experiences have me thinking about this.  First, I just returned from a month’s travel through the world’s business shipping channel, the South China Sea, visiting 6 countries and witnessing how China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong are succeeding despite wrestling with big problems. Second, I just saw the anti-Marcellus movie, “Promised Land” which, while entertaining, paints the shale gas industry and its opportunity as absolutely evil and the good people of Pennsylvania as painfully naïve.

So I was just thinking…what would happen if the Far East had the potential windfall of a shale gas opportunity and how would they exploit it?  First, here are some of my observations on my first trip to the region.

  • No matter which country I visited, everyone asked me the same question, “Is America going to avoid going over the fiscal cliff?” When I asked them why they are so worried, they say all they need America to do is to thrive as this benefits the whole world. When I asked, “What else do you want?” They said, “Nothing” they said, since they believe they are otherwise self-sufficient and accountable.
  • As tensions ebb and flow between the Chinese and their neighbors in this historically volatile region, every country is focused on working hard and is hopeful that the New Year will bring good luck. Nothing more. Nothing less.
  • The region’s economic winners, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, succeed within tightly structured systems and under autocratic leadership, and yet their people yearn for the freedoms of choice, entrepreneurship, religion and lifestyle we take for granted here in the US. They don’t believe they have what they want so they make the best with what they are allowed.
  • Whether it is truth or urban legend that the Chinese word “crisis” is a combination of the words, “danger” and “opportunity,” the incredible futuristic cities of Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong makes one’s head spin in wonder of how did they do it?
    • Singapore’s corporate leadership in sustainability with economic growth based on energy and commodities.
    • Hong Kong’s capitalistic perseverance is incredible in the face of China’s increasingly autocratic heavy hand.
    • Bankok’s melding of modern ways with a benevolent monarchy and traditional Buddhism creates a most attractive culture and country.

So what lessons can Pennsylvania manufacturers learn from one of the world’s most competitive and challenging regions on how to seize our shale gas day? Here are some thoughts:

  • Find opportunity in crisis. Transfer manufacturing know-how from serving coal and oil producers to serving gas companies. Some of these companies, like Consol is, itself shifting its operations from coal to gas.
  • Make the best of what is happening within your culture. Exploit the local consumption of gas. With low gas prices, local PA manufacturers can benefit from using gas in their operations and by anticipating the needs of energy companies to convert their coal-fired plants to gas.
  • Compete. As plastic-producing plants come on-stream, how can local job shops serve them and their down and upstream supply chain?
  • Use our freedom and creativity to explore and improvise. Which manufacturing opportunities can be uncovered from the shale gas millions being spent in the transportation, infrastructure and construction sectors as they benefit from the building of pipelines?

Sometimes the positive examples of far-away regions are just as motivating and mind clearing, as they are practical and applicable. And sometimes the locally painful stereotypes exploited by Hollywood can be sufficiently antagonizing as to cause positive breakthroughs.

All I know is we have a great big opportunity that the rest of the world envies and is watching how we exploit it. I look forward to helping to identify the best in the Marcellus for every manufacturer in the region!




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