Cracker plant progressing

PARKERSBURG – The proposed ethane cracker project for Wood County is continuing to move forward as work has started to see what will be needed to make the project a reality.

In November, officials announced the Brazil-based Odebrecht is planning for the development of an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation.

A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas, into the widely used ethylene, a key component for the plastics industry.

The proposed complex is called ASCENT, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. If the plant is built, it would be operated by Braskem America.

Odebrecht/Braskem spokesman Chuck Glazer said officials are still in the beginning stages of the feasibility study to evaluate if the factors are in place to see if the project is able to move ahead in Wood County. Some of those factors include the availability of raw material supplies, the local labor force, available help from the local community as well as the state government.

“We are still very early in the process,” Glazer said.

Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC purchased the SABIC Innovative Plastics plant property at 9226 DuPont Road, Washington, W.Va., for $10,910,890. The sale was completed on Dec. 31. SABIC, which employs about 130 people, is set to close in 2015.

Officials have indicated that a cultural resources survey is being planned for the Tri-C ballfields near SABIC. The ballfields are being planned to be relocated to make room for Project ASCENT.

Company officials are not releasing some aspects of the project, in part, to manage expectations from the public. They have said when there is something to announce, they will be more than eager to do so.

State officials have said that the immediate challenge is overcoming infrastructure issues and how the state can assist the company. Officials talked about the need for pipelines to move the natural gas and its related products. Discussions have also taken place about educational needs throughout the region to have a qualified workforce in place if the project moves forward.

Cam Huffman, president and CEO of the Mid-Ohio Valley Area Roundtable, said work has been done on getting the people from the companies in contact with the people at the state they will be dealing and answering the questions that come up as the project moves forward. Meetings were recently held in Charleston between company officials and state officials.

Huffman said new people have come onto the project from Braskem and Odebrecht. People are looking at the needs of the project and what may need to be done.

An exact list of what will need to happen and what will be needed is still being worked through.

“We are trying to be proactive,” Huffman said. “We are gathering things we know they will need, but have not asked for yet.

“We are trying to stay ahead of the curve,” he said.