PARKERSBURG - The Wood County area remains in the running for a possible ethane cracker facility; it is just going to take time to get all the pieces in place, according to a chemical official who has been watching the progress of such a facility coming to the Mountain State.
Kevin DiGregorio, the executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone West Virginia, was the keynote speaker at the Area Roundtable's annual membership meeting Wednesday at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
West Virginia, and particularly Wood County, is being considered for a multibillion-dollar chemical processing plant, also known as an ethane cracker plant. A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale and Ithica Shale natural gas, into the widely used ethylene. It is a key component for the plastics industry.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Kevin DiGregorio, the executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone West Virginia, was the keynote speaker at the Area Roundtable annual Membership Meeting Wednesday at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
West Virginia lost out on such a facility earlier this year to Pennsylvania by the Shell Co.
"We are working hard to get the next cracker," DiGregorio said. "It is not just a big deal for West Virginia; it is a big deal for the United States."
DiGregorio talked about what a cracker plant is and the kind of commitment it takes for a company to construct such a facility.
West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told those in attendance Shell was not the only game in town and that others were looking at this area.
"We continue very actively the recruitment of a company or companies that will ultimately build ethane crackers here," he said. "It is incredibly important to the long-term growth of our economy that we bring to our state and our region other companies.
"We are talking about an industry that will create the feedstock that is in 90 percent of all of the consumer goods manufactured in the world today. This opportunity is incredibly important."
Burdette said he is in regular contact with companies, providing information about the state, the region and more.
"We could be ground zero ... or close to it (for this industry)," Burdette said.
West Virginia has a lot going for it, DiGregorio said.
There are benefits to processing the material here as opposed to the cost of transporting it somewhere else to have it processed, he said. West Virginia is in a good position of having an abundance of natural gas.
It also has a sizable chemical industry in place.
A cracker facility could represent a large investment and potential jobs from the facility as well as related industries, DiGregorio said. The investment could be as much as $4 billion.
Estimates have the Marcellus Shale deposit being able to produce natural gas for at least 30 years. As a result, around one million new jobs could be created from it and related industries by 2025.
"This Marcellus Shale will not be here today and gone tomorrow," DiGregorio said. "It is an economic grand slam. There is no doubt."
He said the state environmental protection agency is good about working with companies to make sure they do what they need to, but also allow them to create economic opportunities.
"You have to have that balance," DiGregorio said. "There are dozens of crackers in the U.S.
"It has been done. We have to overcome the obstacles. We have to be smart to do this."
However, there are issues a company has to consider in determining where it would put such a facility.
"It is going to take a lot of patience," DiGregorio said. The cracker in Pennsylvania is 10 miles from the West Virginia border so West Virginians will be employed there and the state will see benefits from that facility, he said.