PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Developers of the Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise project are moving ahead rapidly with plans for a new ethane cracker facility for Wood County.

Although the company announced the purchase of land, it’s never said for certain this facility will become a reality. However, in recent days more and more actions reveal they are closing in on a positive decision.

“Systematically they are checking off the boxes,” said state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette. “In fact, they are a little bit ahead of schedule and that’s very encouraging.”

Developers with Ascent recently sought environmental permits for the site. They are simultaneously working on an archeological survey of the land. Burdette said it’s too early to say for sure, but he’s optimistic this will become a reality.

“I’m incredibly optimistic about how all this works out,” he said. “I think Odebrecht will build this plant, I think it’s just a matter of working through the natural steps.”

The environmental permit is the the most difficult and time consuming to achieve. Burdette said from the start the company has guarded against delivering false expectations and that makes him even more confident it’s going to be built. Burdette said all of the Odebrecht moves have been transparent, unlike the Shell facility which West Virginia lost to western Pennsylvania.

“You’re not hearing much out of the Shell project,” he said. “I know they’ve been doing to some site work up there, but the steps that Odebrecht is now taking are becoming very public.”

Burdette said the fact those steps are being revealed is a boost to his confidence.

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  • Mr.P

    In 5 to 10 yrs the only safe water to drink in WV will be bottled water.

  • Pickle Barrel

    I would love to see this project become reality. I have my doubts for another reason…I am concerned the envirokooks will do everything in their power to block the plant from obtaining an air emissions permit.

  • Fred

    It's a definite maybe.

  • ViennaGuy

    I'm also optimistic that this will become a reality.

  • Aaron

    While I believe it's a good thing that the facility is being built in Washington, I can't help but wonder how much it will eventually cost WV taxpayers.

    • Roger

      I hope you guys don't mind.... I took a screen shot of an actual (and educated) debate over something taking place in the comment section. After reading this I actually learned something and enjoyed hearing both sides points of view... Being how rare this is I had to take a screen shot to prove that it does still happen. +1 to you all

    • The bookman

      If it's a good thing for WV, which I believe it is, how would it cost WVians?

      • Aaron

        Either excessive giveaways or financing a project in which the occupant does not follow through on the promised jobs or the promised time frame.

        It's not like either would be a first in West Virginia.

        I've done a little research and while I know very little on the subject, I wonder, is this cracker needed? I spoke with a gentleman at length who is in the industry and he questioned as to why any would build a cracker anywhere in the Marcella Shale region given that the technology exist in Louisiana and Texas to provided the needed services.

        Current industry estimates are that any local manufacturing environment could not process more than 2-3% of all gas processed so why spend billions to fight the regulatory requirements and construct a facility that simply is not needed.

        The composition of Marcella Gas is 75% methane, 16% ethane, 5% propane and 1% for butane, pentane, hexane and other gases. There is no financial incentive for the methane, the ethane is where the money is at. Each unite of ethane produces .78 units of ethylene.

        Projected needs of ethylene can easily be produced at existing locations. Despite that, there are at least 7 announced new cracker facilities, most of which will be built with promised tax breaks and/or public financing.

        Why? To me, West Virginia's would be better suited to properly tax the raw material and ship it to existing facilities.

        • Whip

          Aaron, you correct. The cracker is just the first part of the production train. There is a reason Shell has not started their one to consume the ethylene and produce the final product. It's very expense to build the complete production train. Over 20 billion dollars. Shell was hoping someone would partner with them but it has not happened. Dow Chemical is building the largest cracker in the world in a Texas. Dow has a presence in West Virginia, if that was the best business model it would have been built here.

          • Aaron

            You have more faith than I do.

          • The bookman

            Well, that having been said, the demolition of the site only began in February, so maybe weather permitting more will be accomplished.

            The point is that one can't expect petrochemical companies to lizard until the cracker is a surety. I think we shall see them come to fruition, and the petrochemical companies will follow as the careful suitors.

          • Aaron

            I should probably clarify my statement Bookman. The company I work for is looking to provide Shell with site preparation material. Despite doing everything but agreeing to pay for it AND taking the ceo in the backroom for some extra curricular activities, our sales reps keep getting told the same thing regarding construction.

            Soon. We keep circle jerking with about 147 other vendors but very little has changed since the announcement, even though, as you point out, some demolition and earth moving has commenced.

          • Aaron

            Actually they're moving dirt.


            And around.

            And around.

            We did the same thing while I was in boot camp but then it was called punishment, not progress.

          • The bookman

            Demolition has begun on the Horsehead site and feedstock agreements have been made with a myriad of supply companies in the region. Yes, it is the first step in a long process for the Beaver site. Thankfully, large scale capital investment doesn't lend an ear to the naysayers and pessimists among us. The value in the wet gas will bring the investment. Texas has much going for it. If they were just closer to the play and the market.

        • The bookman

          Transportation cost is the driving reason behind a cracker in this region, and the major costs to the State involve credits after the project comes online. Aside from infrastructure improvements, I don't see front loaded risk, so I don't share your concern.

          • Aaron

            Industry will utilize a very small portion of the finished good thus the remaining product will require transportation to move it to viable producers. For taxpayers to be put on the hook for millions in tax breaks on the chance that industry might settle where the feedstock is located is not justification for said tax breaks, particularly when any potential relocating manufacturer will require the same tax breaks.

            I have no issues with either Odebrecht or Shell building crackers in the region. I just think they should do so on their dime, not tax payers.

          • Jim

            Bookman and Guardian are both correct. Manufacturers who make plastic products (especially things that can be packed easily into shipping containers), will want to locate within 50 miles of the plant. So take a map and make a 50-mile circle around Washington, WV and you can identify where these companies may locate.

            Additionally, you are placing the plant about 1,500 miles closer to the largest population/manufacturing centers in the US (Northeast). Is Company X located in NYC can buy ethylene at the same price from the WV cracker as in TX, but will have to pay only half the shipping cost. If Company X is smart, they are using the WV plant.

        • Guardian

          Why? Downstream manufacturing. Chemical manufacturers that consume ethylene will locate close to the source. When the source is physically situated adjacent to waterways and rail service, all the better. Washington, WV provides both means of outbound transportation.

          • The bookman

            Because Odebrecht has included in its proposal the construction of three polyethylene plants in addition to the cracker. As I've said before, there are many hurdles and much to accomplish, the largest being infrastructure and workforce preparation, but they will be built in the region. I like the chances at this point, and so does the industry. Lots of positive buzz in the industry on this project.

          • Aaron

            What makes you think all these ancillary businesses will chose WV over the other 6 cracker locations for their future businesses?

          • The bookman

            Because the value is in having the cracker in your backyard, not someone else's. It's the difference in having development in Ravenswood versus Athens, Ellenboro vs Pomeroy, Sistersville vs Gallipolis. We want the development here. I see your point, but can we really afford not to compete for the project, when so much could be gained?

          • Aaron

            Yes I do. And I also know that the make up of the workforce, where they live and where they pay taxes would not change whether the site is built in Washington or Belpre.

            If WV has to give away all the property tax money, what's the difference if the plant is located in WV or OH other than half the employees will be driving west instead of east?

          • The bookman

            Because the Odebrecht's of the world would laugh at you. We are competing for this opportunity. The Washington site could very easily be the Belpre site. You must know that, don't you?

          • Aaron

            Recently I did a study of Jackson County. I was told the same thing by a developer there. He said that in 10 years the Jackson County Maritime and Industrial Center would be sold out, the aluminum factory would either be booming or replaced and the cracker would lead to new power plants. I told him I hope he's right but I have my doubts.

            As I said below, I have no problem with construction of the cracker and ancillary business. I just do not believe taxpayers should foot the bill.

            If we're going to give such incentives and tax breaks, why not back load them in the form of rebates and tax breaks down the road?