Speculation Increasing and Hope Decreasing for an Ethane Cracker Plant in West Virginia

by Duane Nichols on November 29, 2011

The State Journal reports that Shell Chemicals continues to study a possible chemical plant for cracking ethane to ethylene, to be located in Pennsylvania, West Virginia or Ohio.  Since the ethane would come from the northern panhandle of West Virginia, as well as adjoining lands in Pennsylvania and Ohio, it seems reasonable that such a plant would be located there as opposed to the Kanawha valley. 
“As we move forward with our development of this project, we are concentrating our search for an appropriate site in three states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio,” said Dan Carlson, general manager of new business development for Shell Chemicals in an e-mail response to questions regarding the announcement. “We hope to reach a decision on the location of the cracker by the end of this year and plan on announcing it in January.”
In the e-mail, Carlson outlined numerous factors in which West Virginia will need to outshine Pennsylvania and Ohio in order to have a cracker facility located in the state. Some of the factors being considered include the regulatory environment, access to ethane-rich gas fields, transportation infrastructure, power grid infrastructure, underground storage facilities, availability, skills and cost of local workforce, proximity to Northeast markets, and the cost and ease of doing business in the respective states.
Ethane production from the West Virginia Marcellus shale could ultimately reach  270,000 barrels per day, according to optimistic estimates.  A cracker facility would utilize between 65,000 and 85,000 barrels per day.  But, plans are already in place by Chesapeake to ship up to 125,000 to Texas or Louisiana, or overseas.  Ethane transport via pipeline to Canada is also being planned; and, Sunoco may pipeline ethane to southeastern Pennsylvania for ocean shipment out of a port on the Delaware River.  So, all the jobs from a cracker plant may be transported elsewhere, as we are learning month by month.  The Shell decision may or may not come in January because it involves a long term commitment involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dee Fulton December 3, 2011 at 1:08 am

I would love to know what the Las Vegas bookies are giving as odds on a cracker plant in WV in the next 3 years.


BJ DeFelice December 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

The Weirton Area Port Authority can bring additional services, financing and technology to the table to give WV the edge in winning the Cracker Plant – our IRS 63-20 Public-Private Partnership, Public Benefit Corporation can provide what neither Ohio nor Pennsylvania can, and will be offering up some ideas in the coming week.


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