Wood Co. is still in running for cracker site

PARKERSBURG – West Virginia, and especially Wood County, remains in the running for an ethane cracker plant as the governor told business leaders the state will remain a leader in natural gas production.

Cam Huffman, president of the Wood County Development Authority, said he was in meetings recently with the company looking to build the $3 billion facility, but a decision has not been made.

“We are still definitely in the running,” he said.

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.

Ethane, when cracked, also can become other products, such as clothing and carpet.

Area and state business leaders have been telling people to remain patient. If an announcement will be made, they are just as eager as anyone to make it, they said.

In June, West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Parkersburg Rotary Club a company looking at building an ethane cracker could easily spend $10 million in doing the research on a site, all of the related components and still just walk away.

Huffman draws a comparison to when Hino was deciding whether to locate a $2.5 million plant in Williamstown.

“We had a building already in place,” he said. “It took us a year to just finish the negotiations and then it was another year to get them in there. We have spent two years working on the cracker.”

He brought it more on a personal level, saying if someone is planning on spending $250,000 on a house, they would have a home inspection done before making a decision.

“You have to have some upfront work done first,” he said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was in White Sulphur Springs Thursday where he addressed the state’s role in energy production at the annual meeting of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

“We are still the leader in this country in energy production and I am committed to making sure West Virginia remains a leader,” Tomblin said.

“The development of shale gas and the associated liquids like ethane and propane found in the Marcellus and Utica production also have enormous potential for us. I believe the abundance of these resources gives us, not only a low-cost energy source, but it gives us an opportunity to reinvigorate manufacturing in our state,” Tomblin said.

The state is working to develop the infrastructure that will support this industry for generations to come, the governor said of investments in infrastructure and passing rules to advance the development of the natural gas industry.

“Plans for billions of dollars in investment are on the drawing board,” Tomblin said. “We continue to work hard to bring the first cracker to the Appalachian basin to provide the feedstock for new manufacturing opportunities. We are working every day to make that happen and I am convinced it will happen.”

In making it happen, the residents of the state need to benefit from the rewards, the governor said.

“We are not content to simply allow the resources of this state to be piped somewhere else to create manufacturing jobs,” Tomblin said. “There are companies willing to create those jobs here and we believe we have a right to expect a partnership between those companies which are developing Marcellus and Utica resources and those companies who can use those resources to manufacture value-added products in our state.

“While our natural resources are and will remain a foundation of our economy, we continue to work to diversify and create new opportunities on multiple fronts. But we have more work to do,” Tomblin said.