Planned cracker plant site purchased

WASHINGTON, W.Va. – A project to build a massive petrochemical complex centered around an ethane cracker plant in Wood County took another step forward with the purchase of the land where it is to be built for nearly $11 million.

Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC purchased the SABIC Innovative Plastics plant property at 9226 DuPont Road, Washington, W.Va., for $10,910,890.

In November, Brazil-based Odebrecht announced with state officials including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin that it planned to develop a cracker plant on the site, expected to create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of jobs at the facilities. The complex, which will also include three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation, is to be called the Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise, or Ascent.

That same day, it was announced the SABIC plant, which employs about 130 people, would close in 2015.

Despite great optimism accompanying the announcement, the project has not been finalized. Local officials on Tuesday said the purchase, which closed Dec. 31 and was recently filed with the Wood County Clerk’s office, is a positive sign.

“We are that much closer to the goal line,” said Cam Huffman, president and CEO of the Area Roundtable, which includes the Wood County Development Authority and the Parkersburg-Wood County Development Corporation.

“To have that type of investment from the company and that type of commitment to do that, it’s very encouraging,” he said. “Any time a company is spending money on a project, it’s a positive thing.”

The governor’s office agreed.

“While there is still work to be done before those plans can be finalized, this is great news for the Wood County area and the state,” said Amy Shuler Goodwin, Tomblin’s director of communications. “This emphasizes the company’s commitment to the project and confirms that the company is systematically moving forward with their plans.”

State Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said he’s heard from people concerned that the plant wouldn’t come to pass. The senator said he’s remaining cautiously optimistic and the purchase supports that outlook.

“What a boon for Wood County and the surrounding counties,” he said. “I think sometimes we want to pinch ourselves.”

Nohe said the Legislature remains ready to help make the project a reality, whether through tax incentives, infrastructure improvements or other means.

“We would look at anything that’s reasonable to help that come to fruition,” he said.

An Odebrecht official did not immediately return a call seeking comment.