Cracking Polyethylene Changes in Parkersburg

by S. Tom Bond on November 26, 2013

More on the new Parkersburg cracker plant

Article by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemistry Professor and Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Sabic  is a Saudi Arabian company that specializes in high quality plastics. It has been faced with financial difficulty and is expected to transfer its  business  to Illinois and Mississippi.  It had previously announced plans to close in 2015.    While the salaries were good, the work conditions were sub-par.  Plans are that the “cracker’ plant will replace its current plant seven miles from downtown Parkersburg in what is called Washington Bottom.

Odebrecht  is a Brazilian conglomerate consisting of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals.   The installation will involve an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants, and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation.   Its giant Brazilian petrochemical subsidiary, Braskem SA will handle petrochemical-related activities and commercialization of polyethylene.  It should come of no surprise that the subsidiary is partly owned by a national oil firm called Petrobras, Brazil’s national petroleum company. By 2009 Braskem had 29 industrial units: 26 in Brazil (in Alagoas, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul) and three in the United States. With these acquisitions, the firm became the biggest producer of resins in the Americas and the eighth largest globally.  Already it produces 15 million tons of thermoplastic resins and other petrochemical products.  Braskem is also building a joint venture polyethylene/ethylene plant in Mexico.

Philadelphia-based Braskem America is already the leading producer of polypropylene in the United States, with five production plants, two more than in 2009 They are located in Texas, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and have a technology and innovation center in Pittsburgh. It has annual average revenues in the U.S. of about $2 billion, and is listed as BAK on the New York Stock Exchange.

The new Parkersburg-area project will operate as Ascent Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. The public should be aware of the attraction the U. S. provides because of the expansion of natural gas liquids production; this project is conditional to contracting a long term ethane supply, and a favorable legal climate.  This is likely in a state with Governor Tomblin’s warm embrace.  The people of Parkersburg area should also be aware that, as President Kirk Sherr of Clearview Strategy Group says,  “The U.S. has cheap capital and cheap energy, and there is not much of a labor component” in petrochemical production.  Interpretation:  The money won’t accrue to the working class and the merchants who cater to them, but will go elsewhere.

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S. Thomas Bond November 28, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Correction: Petrabase should be Petrobras, Brazil’s national petroleum company


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