W.Va. governor to announce cracker plant in Wood County

PARKERSBURG – An announcement is expected today of a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker chemical plant to be located in Wood County, sources told The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on Wednesday.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will make the announcement of the petrochemical facility at an event at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, sources said.

Representatives of the governor’s office would neither confirm the governor’s itinerary for today nor the announcement expected at the Caperton Center for Applied Technology.

However, a source familiar with the negotiations and speaking on condition of anonymity told the newspaper “it will be a game changer for the state of West Virginia” and the region.

The facility and the investment would be the biggest economic development investment in the history of West Virginia, the source said.

“Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars,” the source said.

In Pennsylvania, Shell Chemicals announced in 2012 that it would build a cracker plant in Beaver County. Some estimates said 20,000 new jobs would be directly and indirectly created from the plant.

The ethane cracker separates ethylene from natural gas. Ethylene is used in making plastics.

Today’s news follows the announcement earlier this week by Tomblin who said the Sogefi Group, an Italian auto parts manufacturer, will spend $20 million to expand a plant in Prichard in Wayne County, creating at least 250 jobs.

That deal was reached in October when Tomblin and other state officials were on a trade mission in Europe. Part of the 13-day mission was the K Trade Fair, the world’s largest plastics industry trade show.

Natural gas exploration and drilling are increasing as companies tap into the rich Marcellus and Utica shales in the region.

While drilling in the Marcellus Shale has been opposed by environmental groups, other interests cite the jobs and investments exploration and drilling will create and the millions of dollars that will be infused into the economy.

For example, Antero Resources is spending more than $500 million on an 80-mile pipeline from the Ohio River near the Pleasants and Tyler County line, through Pleasants, Tyler and into Ritchie County, to serve four well installations in Tyler and Ritchie counties.