Will W.Va. Get an Ethane Cracker Plant?

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced this afternoon that a Brazilian petrochemical company, Odebrecht, has chosen a site in Wood County to explore the possible location of an ethane cracker plant and three polyethlene plants. 

The governor was disappointed when Shell announced a few years ago it was choosing Pennsylvania over West Virginia for a cracker plant.  And he’s wanted one ever since.

“Literally from the first day of my administration I’ve made it a priority to take advantage of the vast resources of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas reserves to do more than just extract them and ship them out somewhere else but to create manufacturing jobs here in the Mountain State,” Tomblin said at the announcement in Parkersburg.

The complex will be called Ascent, short for  Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

An official with Odebrecht says the company is moving cautiously. David Peoples said he didn’t want to raise expectations unnecessarily.  But he was frank when he talked about needing a skilled and trained workforce.

“I was talking to the union representatives this morning and we have a lot of jobs,” Peoples said.  “We have over 180,000 employees world wide and here in the United States one of the issues we have is drugs.  And there’s a drug testing policy.  For all of the young or even for the senior citizens like myself you do not get hired if you do not pass the drug testing policy.”       

Ascent’s feasibility will depend on several important variables, including the contracting of long-term ethane supply, as well as financing, regulatory approvals, and appropriate governmental support.