CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An economist says the impact of the potential development of a petrochemical complex in Wood County will be huge, if West Virginia is prepared for it.

Tom Witt, an economics professor emeritus at West Virginia University and former director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economics, detailed a recent study of the possible effects of that development for state lawmakers this week at the State Capitol.

Witt’s study estimated more than 2,000 permanent jobs could be created annually because of the complex, generating $2 billion in total economic impact in the Parkersburg area and across the Mountain State.

Last fall, officials with Odebrecht announced the company’s exploration of a possible petrochemical complex near Parkersburg in Washington, W.Va.  The development — called Project ASCENT for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise — could include a cracker and multiple polyethylene plants.

At a cracker plant, the ethane in natural gas would be broken down into other products used in manufacturing.

On Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Witt said the project does come with a list of challenges.

“One of the big obstacles is, there’s a lot of ethane now that’s being produced and some of it is being withheld from the market simply because they can’t get it to an ultimate consumer, but some of it now is going to Canada, some is going to the Gulf Coast,” he said.

Any investments tied to a cracker in West Virginia, he said, will also depend on pipeline construction.  “One of the critical things that we need in West Virginia is an ethane pipeline to take the ethane from the fractionation plant to an ultimate cracker that would be established,” he said.

Such a pipeline, Witt said, would require a $150 million investment.

Also, Witt said West Virginia needs trained workers to fill the thousands of jobs that could be created.

“We need to make sure that our trade schools and our community colleges, in particular, are producing the type of human resources that’s going to be needed in this growing industry,” he said.  “I think that’s a real challenge we have in education.”

Odebrecht, a Brazilian company, has purchased land for the possible petrochemical complex project along the Ohio River next to DuPont.  The next phase of development will focus of permits.

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  • Ragweed

    I just heard they are going to build a new Cheez Whiz plant next to the cracker plant.

    • Larry

      I heard that too, across from the magic potion producing facility.

  • ViennaGuy

    I'm optimistic that this plant will see the light of day. As the story noted, Odebrecht has already exercised its purchase option on the property, which actually puts them ahead of the Shell cracker plant in Pennsylvania(Shell has still not exercised its purchase option on that property). Granted, there are many things which must come together along the way, but the ball is starting to roll ...

  • Aaron

    If the onus is on our failing community colleges to provide jobs then drastic changes MUST be made.

    • Aaron

      *training for jobs.

  • Larry

    The cracker is expected to open sometime after the unicorn factory is up and running.

  • Brian

    Cracker is a racist term, unless you say cracka. Trayvon Martin's case proved this.

    • Robertt

      Truly; and our president hates a cracker