PARKERSBURG - The Wood County area is still being considered as a potential site for a possible ethane cracker plant.
Local officials said things like infrastructure, a quality workforce and transportation access are all reasons this area could support a petrochemical facility.
"The Wood County area is still in the running for getting a cracker plant," said Cam Huffman, executive director of the Wood County Development Authority.
Back in March, West Virginia lost out on a multibillion-dollar chemical plant from Shell. The plant is being built in Monaca, Pa., close to the West Virginia border. Shell told state officials they chose the Pennsylvania site because of access to transportation, including rails, river and roads. Officials said the plant in Monaca has had little impact on efforts in this other project.
The state Legislature passed a number of tax incentives to prompt the location of the plant in West Virginia.
A cracker facility takes oil and gas and breaks them up into smaller molecules. An ethane cracker creates ethylene, a compound used in the manufacture of a variety of products from plastic to antifreeze.
Huffman said the interested parties are still gathering facts about the areas they are considering.
"They are still in the information gathering stage," he said.
If a question comes up regarding the area, Huffman said they have moved quickly to address it and provide whatever is needed.
"When someone is considering a $4 billion to $4.5 billion project, there are going to be a lot of questions," he said. "They want to be sure they covered everything."
Huffman said the area has good infrastructure, a local site is already being touted as a possible location and a number of other chemical companies in the area can benefit from having the cracker plant located here.
"We have a lot of things going for us," he said.
Officials have not released the location of the possible site being considered.
Mark Whitley, the development director for Jackson and Roane counties, said he is confident the Mid-Ohio Valley is getting a serious look from the people interested in building the ethane cracker plant in West Virginia.
"We have the infrastructure in place, access to the Ohio River, the transportation routes in place and the resources needed to support such a facility," he said.
If the facility goes in Wood County or somewhere locally, a number of businesses around the area will see increases in business from suppliers to related industries and more.
"Everyone would benefit," Whitley said. "I think the Mid-Ohio Valley stands an excellent chance."
Wood County Commissioner Wayne Dunn said his major concern about the possible facility is the safety of the community around it. He has had numerous talks with representatives of the federal Environmental Protection Agency about such facilities and has heard good things back.
"(If this area is chosen) we can have it both ways, we can have the plant along with the jobs it will create and we can have it safe," he said. "There were not too many downsides."
Right now, no one knows if a plant is coming to Wood County or not.
"We have as good of a chance as anyone," Dunn said.
State Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said the Legislature has taken action in passing a number of tax incentives for a company looking to locate an ethane cracker anywhere in the state. A lot of the legislation dealt with areas dealing with the development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit.
Anderson said local officials, from the economic development authority to the county government and others, have been working hard at marketing the area.
"They have a list of sites available," he said. "They have been on this."
Anderson said this area has a lot of workers with experience in working in industrial plants.
Work can be done with local colleges, like West Virginia University at Parkersburg, to get the programs in place to provide the kind of training the workforce at an ethane cracker would need.
"We have a quality workforce," Anderson said.
Most companies will look at how to transport the gas and related infrastructure to the area.
A number of businesses and companies could be spun off from the ethane crack to produce plastics and other materials from products produced by the cracker.
"That would mean more construction jobs to build these businesses and more permanent jobs for this area," Anderson said.