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Most people use plastic products every day, but what they may not know is that natural gas plays a huge role in its manufacturing.
There is now another reason natural gas is so important in our everyday lives, plastic. Many of us use plastic products every day and never think about where they come from or how they are manufactured. The Marcellus and Utica Shales that are producing our affordable natural gas also produce a natural gas liquid called ethane.
Cracker plants, much like the Shell Cracker Plant being built in Pittsburgh, heats the ethane to break or “crack” its molecules to make ethylene. And, one of the products ethylene will be used to produce is plastic.
The Penn State Extension explains this process:
We see it all around, in everything from food packaging, medical equipment, furniture, and vehicles, to toys, computers, and clothing. But most people don’t realize that natural gas is where a lot of plastic production starts.