Antero Backs ‘Cracker’ Project

WHEELING – Locally produced natural gas could eventually be on its way to the proposed Odebrecht ethane cracker in Wood County, as Antero Resources has agreed to provide about half the ethane that would be used to run the facility planned outside Parkersburg.

The agreement announced Wednesday calls for Antero Resources – which leases natural gas acreage in Wetzel, Tyler, Belmont, Monroe and Harrison counties as well as elsewhere in East Ohio, north central West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania – to provide 30,000 barrels of ethane per day to the planned Ascent facility.

Although officials with Brazilian petrochemical giants Odebrecht and Braskem announced plans for the project in November, construction of the Wood County cracker plant is not yet a done deal. Ascent closed on its $10.9 million purchase of the SABIC Innovative Plastics plant, set to close by mid-2015, but the company continues to conduct feasibility studies before making a final decision on whether to build.

But West Virginia leaders – who have long coveted an ethane cracker plant, which they say would bring hundreds of permanent jobs and thousands of temporary construction jobs – called Wednesday’s announcement “a major step forward.”

“By utilizing the ethane produced here at home, we can revitalize our manufacturing industry for decades to come, bringing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investments to the Mountain State,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

According to Denver-based Antero, the company’s ethane would be used by the Ascent facility to produce polyethylene, a key component in plastics production.

“Today’s announcement highlights one of the important benefits of shale gas production and demonstrates Antero’s commitment to the growth of downstream manufacturing in the Appalachian region,” said Antero CEO Paul Rady. “We are excited to work with our partners at Odebrecht and Braskem to help position Ascent as a catalyst for regional economic development.”

Antero leases a combined 460,000 acres in the liquids-rich Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas formations. The company currently operates 15 drilling rigs in West Virginia and five in East Ohio.