CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An industry analyst said with the amount of natural gas coming out of the ground, the United States needs at least a dozen more cracker plants to handle the load.
Tom Gellrich of Topline Analytics, explained that could mean more than one cracker plant in West Virginia.
Gellrich was a guest speaker at Wednesday’s Marcellus to Manufacturing Ethane Development Conference in Charleston.
Cracker plants, which can span hundreds of acres, use extreme heat to convert ethane separated from a natural gas stream into ethylene.
Antero Resources announced Wednesday it would be supplying the proposed cracker complex in Wood County with 30,000 gallons of natural gas each day.
With the amount of ethane available in West Virginia and at different shale sites around the country, Gellrich stressed a need for more cracker complexes—like the one near Parkersburg—and the industries that go along with it.
“Those crackers mean jobs, not only in the state’s where the crackers are located, but they produce chemicals and plastics that can be produced and used by other industries,” Gellrich said.
He stressed West Virginia, with all its ethane, isn’t the only prime location for production in the U.S. The Gulf Coast has its fair share as well. What sets West Virginia apart is the state’s desire to attract crackers and those downstream industries to locate here.
“It is very aggressive in bringing together the educational or academic areas, businesses, as well as the government in creating a real partnership,” said Gellrich. “That’s what really makes it happen.”
Another plus, in West Virginia’s cracker corner, is the state’s universities and colleges.
“We need to have the universities studying some of these new processes and new ways of manufacturing, say, ‘Hey, here’s an easier way to make a product out of this,’ or ‘Here’s what else you can do.’ That creates innovation. That creates a virtuous cycle for the area,” said Gellrich. “And West Virginia is one of the leaders in bringing those pieces together.”
Gellrich believes there is a chance West Virginia could attract multiple crackers that are grouped together.
“That’s a good thing to have two crackers or more in the same location because they can act as back up for the downstream people if one cracker goes offline.”