Dominion Promoting Mountain State’s Community Colleges

Dominion Transmission Inc. is advertising West Virginia community colleges as work force training facilities in its meetings with companies interested in building an ethane cracker in the state, which could bode well for the Northern Panhandle.

On Tuesday, Bob Orndorff, managing director of state and local government affairs for Dominion, updated the Wheeling Rotary Club on the company’s projects, which include a nearly $500 million industrial complex along W.Va. 2 near Natrium.

The plant is expected to process 200 million cubic feet of natural gas per day upon completion of the first phase, with the capacity expected to double to 400 million cubic feet daily once the company receives further supply commitments. Construction of the facility is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

“This is a bright day for this valley,” Orndorff said. “The amount of ethane coming out of our plant, the MarkWest plant, the Williams plant – you’re going to create a manufacturing opportunity that we’ve never seen before. That’s my prediction. I hope it comes true.”

As such a large supplier of ethane, Dominion meets monthly with companies that want to build a cracker – a plant that uses ethane to create ethylene, a component of plastics – in the state, Orndorff said. In those sessions, Dominion touts the state’s community colleges as facilities that can prepare and equip West Virginians with the skills to one day work in that cracker, Orndorff added.

“We’ll produce enough ethane at Natrium to build a world class cracker,” he said. “We just need to find somebody to come in and build it here.”

Due to an insufficient amount of land, however, that facility would not be built near Natrium, Orndorff pointed out.

And Dominion is currently working with West Virginia Northern Community College and Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont to develop training programs that Orndorff hopes will translate to jobs in the natural gas industry.

“This is an epidemic that is in the positive interests of this country. We have more natural gas than we know what to do with,” Orndorff said.