CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A petrochemical complex in the Mountain State is closer to becoming a reality.Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise purchased the SABIC Plastic Innovations plant located at 9226 DuPont Road in Wood County for roughly $11 million. West Virginia Chamber of Commerce president Steve Roberts "couldn't be more thrilled" about the land acquisition."This is such good news," Roberts said. "This is really the cornerstone of what could lead to economic development in West Virginia."Government officials along with Brazilian-based Odebrecht announced a potential plant complex in Washington along the Ohio River in November. The complex, which would be known as Ascent -- Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise -- would include an ethane cracker plant, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and co-generation.In November, Odebrecht officials did not announce financing details or how many potential jobs the project would create or when it would happen.
Roberts said the chamber perceives natural gas as a key component to revitalizing the chemical industry in the state.West Virginia officials have recently tried, but have been unsuccessful, to attract a multibillion-dollar cracker plant to West Virginia. Last year, Shell opted to build a plant in southwestern Pennsylvania.West Virginia has the fuel source beneath the soil and ability to supply a feedstock and transport the natural gas safely, Roberts said."If you have those things in your state or region, it's really the cornerstone of industrial development," Roberts said.
As for the timetable of the complex materializing, Roberts said the sooner the better."We are eager to get started." Roberts said. "Heaven knows we need the jobs."SABIC officials have said the plant would cease operations in 2015. The plant has roughly 109 production plant employees.West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Gazette in November that more than half of the plant employees were eligible for retirement.
Cracker plants break down larger molecules and separate ethane from natural gas. Polyethylene is a byproduct of this process and a base chemical for plastic products manufacturing. Crackers also remove the natural gas liquids, making the natural gas product ready for pipeline transportation. Corky Demarco, executive director of West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said those in the natural gas industry felt really confident about the November announcement."This is the stake in the ground we were all hoping would happen," Demarco said.Demarco said Braskem, an Odebrecht-owned company, isn't new to business leaders. Demarco said the first time the natural gas association talked with Braskem was late 2009, early 2010.Braskem has 36 "industrial units," including 29 in Brazil, five in the United States and two in Germany."They have been vetting, kicking the tires in West Virginia for a number of years," Demarco said. "This is the combination of a long process and confirming everything they said when they first came here."
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