More positive steps toward proposed cracker plant

A Texas-based oil and natural gas producer with operations focused in Appalachia and the Midcontinent region of the U.S. has announced the signing of transportation and marketing agreements, including one with the proposed cracker plant in Wood County.

Range Resources Corp. made the announcements Friday, one of which is a fixed term ethane sales agreement that is subject to successful project completion.

According to a press release Friday from Range, the ethane agreement would supply ASCENT, the petrochemical complex planned by the Odebrecht Organization in Parkersburg. The ethane agreement commits Range to 5,000 barrels a day for a term of 15 years.

The ASCENT ethane will be supplied directly from a regional processing plant, thus resulting in no additional transportation fee to Range, the release said.

The cracker plant would be a multi-billion-dollar project at the former SABIC chemical plant and the Tri-C ballfields in Washington Bottom. It will be the largest development in the history of West Virginia and result in the creation of thousands of jobs.

Cam Huffman, president of the Wood County Development Authority, said the announcement is great news for the proposed Wood County cracker plant. Agreements like it are part of the necessary steps in getting final approval for the plant and he is glad to see the project moving forward.

“They are moving the ball closer to the goal,” Huffman said. “We applaud Range Resources for their involvement.”

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said Friday’s announcement was another positive step forward for the cracker project.

It is the second large announcement in support of the project, following the March announcement by Antero Resources to serve as the anchor ethane supplier for the cracker plant, he said.

“For the project to work, they need these commitments,” Burdette said of the agreements involving Antero and Range.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a statement Friday afternoon.

“This announcement marks another major step forward toward the development of the ASCENT cracker complex,” said Tomblin, who announced the plant at a press conference in November in Parkersburg. “That will mean thousands of construction jobs at ASCENT itself; and potentially thousands more jobs turning ASCENT’s polyethylene into products for consumers and businesses worldwide,” he said.

The other ethane agreement announced Friday by Range would potentially supply an affiliate of Sasol Ltd. with 10,000 barrels of ethane a day for a multi-year term. Range expects to utilize its ATEX transportation capacity to supply the contract.

Sasol anticipates reaching a final investment decision later this year on its proposed 1.5 million ton per annum ethane cracker and derivatives complex near Lake Charles, La., the release said.

The two deals combined provide Range a revenue uplift as compared to leaving the ethane in the gas stream, the company said.