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.”

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  • Native American

    This may sound crazy, but sometimes I think it would have been better if WV was never permanently inhabited by humans, even we only used it for hunting grounds, everything is harder, and more expensive to do in this state, always has been, always will be, hillsides as far as the eye can see.

    • Wowbagger

      Actually there is irrefutable evidence of permanent pre-European settlement in at least the Ohio, Clear Fork, South Branch, and Kanawha valleys including burial mounds, petroglyphs, and just old fields. Granted all of these were in relatively flat areas, but the old concept of West Virginia set aside as a hunting and battle ground isn't valid any more.

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    People needed to start preparing themselves years ago for the job boom that is now happening in WV in the Oil/Gas area...I started my advanced degree 2 years ago when I first went to work for a major natural gas company...I am still employed by them, and will be much more employeable when i am done in May...Jobs are not going to come to us, we have to react to the changeing job market here in WV. What I mean is that our citizens need to be proactive in their approach to getting these high paying jobs. We have opportunities...It is our duty to jump on the opprotunities and make it happen for US!!!

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Road apples. The only well-paying jobs will be for the Okies and Texans who come here to work. When someone pushes for the hiring of West Virginians, the Jobs-Killer Parrot will be prompted to squawk.

    Recently, a state economic development official told a local that even Mason County will see "spinoff jobs" from this Earl's
    Phantom Kracker. The only jobs for any Mason Countians or any West Virginians will be at minimum-wage, spinoff convenience stores. Sheetz convenience stores as far as the eye can see!

    Just how many generations into the future will this happen? As one local official said, "We needed something yesterday."

    Rather than the fashionable "game-changer" phrase, I'd say "Welcome to West Virginia--Ripe for the Pluckin'".

    • WVtoTX

      What if those "Okies" and "Texans" choose to become WV citizens? As a former West Virginian who recently became a Texan I am happy to report that NO ONE in Texas was against my becoming a resident in their state. West Virginians need to be a little more welcoming. You don't need to breed all of your citizens at home, you can welcome new ones in to the fold.

      • Mason County Contrarian

        I guess we will see and I hope I am wrong. But I am firmly convinced that we are being led down an economic path that leads to nothing but a mirage and one that echos the line from an old Montgomery Gentry tune "My Town": "I wonder if that interstate's still comin' through....."

        Politicians love to make new promises and revisit old ones, especially in an election year.

        Just ask anyone from Mason County.

        • Neal

          One of the things that keeps us down in WV is that more often than not we wait for someone, whether it be a politician or perceived company moving into the state or whoever, to 'lead us down a path'. We shouldn't be waiting for someone to GIVE us a job or lead us somewhere. As a state we need to get the education that these jobs require and then jobs will come.

    • Aaron

      And really man, don't knock the Sheetz. They're amazing. Where else can you get a foot long sammich at 4 in the morning for $4.00?

      • Larry

        That's true, with violent diarrhea and heartburn included free.

      • Hillbilly

        And they pay better than Minimum Wage!

      • The bookman

        And triple points!

    • Neal

      The jobs will be there if we, as West Virginians, have the educated work force to fill them. I guarantee you that any company coming to WV would much rather hire a qualified person who lives across the street for a new plant rather than import workers from across the country. It makes better business sense to do that and also endears the company to the local population. But they can only hire that person across the street if they have the education to do the job. So now's the time to get the education you need to fill that job in the future.

      • Hillbilly

        Anyone know how many permanent post-construction jobs this will have?

        • Larry

          They're saying around 800, supposedly.

    • The bookman

      Well I must say you are making progress. You, at least, are considering the cracker as a project that reaches completion. The "oh woe is me" is still pervasive in your comment, but baby steps I'll take!

      Maybe we could all quickly move out of state to OK or TX, dramatically increasing our prospects of obtaining one of these jobs. Or maybe it would be better to improve our stock with proper education and skills and just make ourselves marketable. Or we could just do nothing and complain.

    • Mason County Contrarian

      As a follow up, if you drive to Buffalo and as you pass the Toyota Plant, notice the only spinoff has been the addition of a convenience store and a gambling parlor.

      • Aaron

        I would say you need to drive a little further. Diamond Electric in Eleanor supplies parts for Toyota and about 300 jobs as does Nippon Thermostat in Fraisers Bottom. Rush Trucking employees a good bit of drivers as well.

        • darren

          Not to mention the hundreds of union contractors involved with line changeovers and modifications.

          • Aaron

            Are you saying Toyota is using union labor? If so, what company?

  • B

    Is this a game - changer in terms of employment in West Virginia?

    • Larry

      Yes, this, along with the New Orleans Saints practicing for 4 weeks at the Greenbrier will be the things that put WV over the top. We will be the envy of all the surrounding states, and everyone will then be making jokes about them, and not WV. Get ready, because games are definitely going to change!