Richard Neely does not know if a global petrochemical giant like Royal Dutch Shell will build an ethane cracker in West Virginia - and he is not going to wait to find out.
"You cannot, in West Virginia, sit like a baby bird and wait for some mama bird from New York or Texas to come drop some worms in your throat," said Neely, a former state Supreme Court of Appeals chief justice. "We have the people to do this here."
Neely and his new company, Invictus LLC, are looking to raise $2 billion to build what he terms a "hydrocarbon processing plant" on 1,546 acres in Kanawha County. The facility would make use of all portions of the "wet" Marcellus and Utica shale gas, including ethane, propane, butane, pentane and the methane natural gas.
"We can raise that $2 billion in two weeks once we get our air permit" from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, he said. "There is a lot of money out there with people looking to make more money."
Neely noted his company would be in a favorable position to receive gas from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"We're not going to burn off the energy that would otherwise be wasted," he said, noting this power could be used to run the plant. "This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility."
Neely is making his plans as West Virginia leaders - as well as those in Pennsylvania and Ohio - are waiting to hear where Shell will build its ethane cracker. The company plans to announce which state will get the multi-billion dollar cracker early next year.
In addition to the direct jobs at the cracker, an American Chemistry Council study showed gaining a cracker would help West Virginia create about 12,000 new permanent jobs in related businesses. Officials in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office have said they anticipate generating 270,000 barrels of ethane daily at peak production, an amount they believe will support a Mountain State cracker.
Because much of the Marcellus Shale gas is being produced in the Northern Panhandle, local leaders would like to see the cracker built here, perhaps on property owned by Bayer Corp. along the Ohio River in Marshall County.
This does not impact Neely's project, nor does he believe his plans should deter those of state leaders.
"We are not competing with anyone," Neely said. "You can get three or four of these."