Although West Virginia may have lost out to Pennsylvania in the race to land Shell’s “world class” ethane cracker plant, it appears that interest is growing from several other companies in locating their cracker plants at West Virginia sites. West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette recently announced that the state has signed a non-disclosure agreement with 3 separate companies that are interested in building an ethane cracker plant in West Virginia. Mr. Burdette reports that the state is in negotiations with another company who is also interested in potential cracker sites located in the state.
As most may already know, the principal reason cited for West Virginia’s failure to land the Shell cracker plant was a lack of available land. Apparently, as planning for the Shell project evolved, the amount of land required increased from approximately 250 acres to approximately 500 acres. The West Virginia site preferred by Shell could not accommodate such requirements because neighboring land was occupied and not available for development of the cracker plant.
A lack of land does not appear to be a problem for the companies who are now expressing interest in potential cracker sites located in West Virginia. Two of the companies will employ models that will require far less land. It has been widely reported that Aither Chemicals, a West Virginia based company, is one of the companies that has expressed interest in building a cracker plant in West Virginia. Aither plans to employ a model which is closer to the 250 acre model. Apparently, one of the other interested companies employs a similar model.
The remaining two companies that have expressed interest in building a cracker plant in West Virginia plan to build a “world class” cracker similar to the Shell model and also requiring large amounts of land. One of those companies is Brazil based Braskem. The name of the other company with plans of a potential “world class” ethane cracker has not been disclosed. Given the renewed interest in building an ethane cracker plant of the “world class” variety in West Virginia, one must assume that there are potential sites acceptable to these companies in West Virginia that could provide the large amount of land required to build such an ethane cracker.
Any renewed interest in building an ethane cracker in West Virginia is good news for the state. Since the decline of West Virginia operations by chemical manufacturing companies like Union Carbide, Dow, FMC, Bayer, and others, West Virginia has been starving for a new spark to revive its once vibrant chemical manufacturing industries. The location of an ethane cracker in West Virginia would almost assuredly provide such a spark.