Axiall Plans ‘Cracker’ in Louisiana

NATRIUM – While West Virginia leaders hope Odebrecht will build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker near Parkersburg, a company that already has operations along the Ohio River in the Northern Panhandle is planning a similar facility in Louisiana.

Axiall Corp. took over the chemical division of PPG Industries earlier this year, giving the company control of the Natrium chemical production site along W.Va. 2, which formerly operated under the PPG badge. Axiall officials announced this week they hope to have a $3 billion ethane cracker up and running in Louisiana by 2018.

“While we are still considering a number of options and potential partners for the project, and we have not yet received final investment approval from our board of directors, we have narrowed our siting choices to Louisiana,” said Axiall President and CEO Paul Carrico. “We are excited about the prospect of expanding our footprint in the state, and continuing to invest in Louisiana and its talented work force.”

A cracker plant converts ethane into the widely used ethylene, a key component for the plastics industry. Because there is still no cracker in the Marcellus or Utica regions, processors must do one of three things with the ethane they extract during natural gas drilling and fracking: blend it into their regular gas streams; burn it off via flaring; or place it into pipelines for shipping to crackers in Gulf Coast states, such as Louisiana, or in Canada.

Axiall already operates complexes in Louisiana – two in the Lake Charles, La., area and one in Plaquemine, La. – and is evaluating where in the state it would build its ethane cracker. If built, officials believe the new facility would create 250 new direct jobs, about 2,200 indirect jobs, and nearly 3,000 construction jobs in Louisiana.

“Time after time, investors with world-scale projects are choosing Louisiana for our incomparable advanced manufacturing work force, our rapidly improving business climate and our strategic location as an energy transmission hub with superior access to domestic shale gas,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said. “Louisiana’s energy, work force and economic development strengths continue to draw major investments from companies like Axiall that recognize there’s no better place to build their future than in Louisiana.”

Axiall will begin the permitting process and certain engineering and design activities as the next step in its process to select a final site for the project, according to the Louisiana Economic Development department.

Prior to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s announcement of the Parkersburg Odebrecht project, some officials believed Marshall County may be the location of a potential Mountain State cracker – mainly because of the proximity to the Marcellus and Utica production areas.