Tomblin: Cracker A Game-Changer

PARKERSBURG – The proposed development of a new petrochemical complex – an ethane cracker plant – in Wood County will be a game changer for the entire state of West Virginia, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Thursday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Tomblin and officials with Odebrecht announced plans for the development of an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation. A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas, into the widely used ethylene, a key component for the plastics industry.

The proposed complex is called Ascent, which stands for “Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.”

“Today, without question, is one of my proudest moments,” Tomblin said. “I am pleased to announce that Odebrecht has chosen a site in Wood County, W.Va.

“They have chosen Wood County as the prospective location for the potential development of a ethane cracker. This announcement is a defining moment in the economic development in the Mountain State.”

Tomblin said it has been a priority of his administration to take advantage of the vast natural resources in the state, especially the Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas deposits, to create economic development and manufacturing opportunities in West Virginia.

Wood County provided a unique opportunity to construct a cracker with potential to develop other related facilities and manufacturing operations with the natural gas industry, Tomblin said.

“Although we realize that much work remains to be done, the necessary supplies of ethane must be fully subscribed, plans for necessary pipelines are still in the works, plans for essential infrastructure are still being developed, the appropriate regulatory approvals are needed and we know that a multi-billion dollar project like this will take time to complete,” Tomblin said. “However, Project Ascent is tremendous news for our state. Today’s announcement is a testament to the business climate we all have worked so hard to create.”

Tomblin credited the state’s low taxes, fiscally responsible government, quality of life and it location being a day’s drive from half the country’s population as reasons the Wood County site was selected.

“We have shown the world that West Virginia is the right place for their investments,” Tomblin said. “Our state is a great place to do business. Although there is a lot of work to be done and I look forward to working along side Odebrecht to bring this project to fruition.”

Although officials did not mention a specific site during the governor’s announcement, many expect it to be the site of the SABIC plant, the old GE Plastics site, in Washington, W.Va. Officials with SABIC announced Thursday the plant would be closed in 2015.

The site at SABIC is more than 300 acres, said David Peebles, a business development manager for Odebrecht.

Odebrecht will utilize what it can of the existing plant, such as some equipment and office buildings, Peebles said.

“We’ll do a selective diagnostic and see what is available that can be utilized,” he said.

Peebles credited the governor and his staff for working in a collaborative manner to bring this project forward step-by-step.

“The reason we picked this area is because of the spirit of collaboration,” he said.

Fernado Reis, CEO of Odebrecht Environmental, said they found West Virginia to have a stable economy with a good bond rating and low taxes.

“It is a very stable environment for us to do this kind of investment,” he said. “It gives us the right place to put the project.”

Company officials did not want to speculate on when different aspects of the project might come together, how much money will be invested or how many jobs might eventually be created.

“We are trying to manage expectations,” Peebles said of the process. “Assuming we will go forward, there will be many jobs available.”

Tomblin said he is confident the project will more forward.