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Shell Takes a Few More Baby Steps Toward PA Ethane Cracker Plant

A small bit of progress to report on the Shell ethane cracker plant planned for Monaca (Beaver County), PA. According to comments made by Shell Chemicals Executive Vice President Graham van’t Hoff at the American Chemistry Council’s Annual Meeting last week in Colorado, Shell has made a few more baby steps toward making the cracker plant a reality–but they still aren’t committed to it just yet. Here’s the steps recently taken…
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Shell Meetings Today in Beaver County, PA on Ethane Cracker Plant

Shell is holding two public meetings today at the Shadow Lakes club in Hopewell (Beaver County), PA to discuss the possibility of building a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Monaca, PA. The meetings, according to Shell, are not an indicator that Shell has decided to move forward with the project. The meetings are, according to Shell, a way for the company to hear concerns from the people who live in the area and would potentially be affected by the plant, and for Shell to share information on where the project stands at this point and what’s ahead. It’s all about good, two-way communication.

More details about the meetings today, and a brief background on the proposed Shell ethane cracker…
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Antero to Provide 50% Ethane Needed at Parkersburg Cracker Plant

halfway thereThe ethane cracker plant planned for Parkersburg (Wood County), WV, to be built by Odebrecht and operated by Odebrecht subsidiary Braskem America, took another giant step closer to reality yesterday. Powerhouse Marcellus/Utica driller Antero Resources announced they will provide 30,000 barrels per day of ethane for the proposed new plant when/if it gets built. That’s half of what the plant needs to operate. Antero Resources CEO Paul Rady was joined by Odebrecht VP of business development David Peebles on stage at the Marcellus to Manufacturing Ethane Development Conference at the Charleston Civic Center for the big announcement yesterday. WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin took to the stage to crow about the deal too (he’s earned the right).

It was just Monday of last week that MDN observed that the Odebrect cracker plant just “feels” like it’s going to happen (see Odebrecht’s WV Ethane Cracker has The Big Mo–Momentum). Yesterday’s Antero announcement is more evidence of that. Below is the official Antero announcement about their ethane contribution to the proposed new cracker, along with a report of who said what about the deal at yesterday’s Charleston conference…
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Cracker Plant Talk Spurs Economic Growth in Beaver County, PA

Over the past couple of years the prospects for an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, PA have swung from wild optimism to wild pessimism and everything in between. Most recently the pendulum has once again tilted negative (see Shell’s Shale Pessimism Signals Worry for Some re PA Cracker). But don’t talk negative to the businesses setting up shop and expanding in Beaver County. The mere talk that it’s possible Shell will build the $2-$3 billion ethane cracker in Monaca has caused a significant uptick in the local economy. One Realtor has said for businesses looking to get a piece of the coming economic pie–you’re already late! Many have already grabbed up space and it’s increasingly difficult to find commercial real estate in the county.

Here is the story of the economic boom already under way in Beaver County just from talk–talk that Shell may build a cracker plant there…
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Report: Coming Economic Miracle in WV from Ethane Cracker Plant

In February MDN told you about a newly released research report from Tom Witt, economist and former director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and professor emeritus at WVU. Witt, now a private consultant, took a close look at realistic numbers for how many jobs and how much money the proposed Odebrecht ethane cracker and associated petrochemical plants will generate for WV and the region (see Economist Releases Report on WV Cracker Plant’s Economic Impact). The numbers are truly astonishing.

In February we could not get our hands a copy of the study, which is titled “Building Value from Shale Gas: The Promise of Expanding Petrochemicals in West Virginia.” We now have a full copy and have embedded it below. We also have an editorial written by Witt and published a few days ago describing the study and his take on the coming economic miracle in WV from Odebrecht’s ethane cracker plant…
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Economist Releases Report on WV Cracker Plant’s Economic Impact

West Virginia’s coming ethane cracker plant continues to generate positive economic news. Yesterday the former director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and professor emeritus at WVU, Tom Witt, released a study he conducted on behalf of Braskem America (i.e. Odebrecht, the company building the cracker). The new study details specifics for how many jobs and how much money the proposed cracker and associated petrochemical plants will generate. And it’s truly astonishing.

Here’s an overview of the economic miracle about to hit WV (and beyond)…
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The Complex Issue of Ethane – Pipelines, Cracker Plants & Exports

Ethane–a natural gas liquid (NGL)–is bountiful in parts of the Marcellus and Utica Shale. So bountiful, it’s causing problems. Until very recently, ethane was considered a waste product. You either had to burn it (increasingly hard to do because of regulations), or blend it with methane. It has been a cost center when in fact ethane is normally a profit center–something that makes drillers money. But you can only make money on it if you can get it to market.

Enter several ethane-specific, and coming soon, NGL pipelines that can carry ethane (and other NGLs) to the Gulf Coast, Canada or Philadelphia for processing and sale. The problem is, if you don’t have a long-term contract on one of those pipelines, you’re hosed. Your competitors are making money on ethane while you’re still spending money on it. That, in a nutshell, is why two regional ethane cracker plants are so desperately needed (Shell’s cracker plant in Beaver County, PA and Odebrecht’s cracker in Parkersburg, WV). The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review took an in-depth look at “the ethane issue” last Friday. It’s a good article providing us with insights into the complex issue of what drillers can/should/are doing with ethane:
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Houston Investment Firm a True Believer in WV Cracker Plant

A huge vote of confidence by an investment firm that the ethane cracker plant recently announced by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and planned for Parkersburg, WV will actually be built (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). Siltstone Capital, an investment and advisory firm with corporate offices in New York and Houston, bought the old Blue Cross and Blue Shield building in downtown Parkersburg–vacant since 2009–to set up offices for the company and to lease out space they don’t use themselves.

Siltstone invests in companies in the energy sector: exploration and production, oil services, and midstream. If they weren’t totally convinced that the Odebrecht cracker plant would be built, you can be sure Siltstone would not have spent $475,000 on a vacant building in Parkersburg, WV (population 31,492)…
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WV Cracker Plant has Already Purchased Land for Future Site

In November, WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced he finally had him a cracker (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). By Dec. 31, Odebrecht, the company that will build the ethane cracker, had purchased the future site for their proposed plant in Wood County, WV through a holding company–for $10.9 million. A chemical plant currently located on the site employing 130 people will close in 2015. But have no fear–when the cracker plant is built, it will (for a time) employ 10,000 people to build it. It’s a massive undertaking that will ultimately lead to an estimated $7 billion economic injection just for the state of West Virginia. Talk about an economic revolution!

Compare WV’s proposed cracker to the Pennsylvania proposed cracker plant. Shell announced their intention to build a PA cracker plant in June 2011. How long did it take Shell to purchase the property on which they plan to build their cracker plant? They still haven’t purchased it. Let’s see: under 2 months to purchase the property for the WV cracker, still no purchase after 2 1/2 years for the PA cracker. Which one do you think is serious about building, and which one will get built first?…
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Life is Good in Parkersburg, WV Thx to Cracker Plant Talk

Even though it’s not yet a done deal, just the fact that Brazilian-based Odebrecht announced they might build a several-billion dollar ethane cracker plant in Parkersburg, WV is enough to cause a rush on real estate in the area. Empty office buildings are getting snapped up, hotels are calling the country economic development agency about possible new construction, and in one case a physician has contacted Parkersburg about setting up a practice specifically targeted at oil and gas workers. Life is suddenly very good around Parkersburg…
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Axiall Announces New Cracker Plant for LA, Fed by NE Ethane

Georgia Gulf, now a huge chemical manufacturer, was founded in 1985 in Atlanta, GA. The company purchased the commodity chemicals business of PPG in early 2013 and renamed the combined company Axiall Corporation. In buying the PPG properties, Axiall inherited a large chemical plant operation in Natrium (Marshall County), WV–in the heart of the Marcellus/Utica.

Axiall announced last week they plan to build a $3 billion ethane cracker plant. However, they aren’t building it in the northeast near their chemical plant operations. Instead, Axiall plans to build their new cracker plant in Louisiana where they already have three other “major manufacturing facilities.” The new cracker, if built (all companies are careful to couch their language on that point) will no doubt be fed by Marcellus and Utica Shale ethane and (possibly) ethane from other plays. The new plant will not be online until 2018 at the earliest…
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PA Sen. Bob Casey “Pressures” Shell to Commit to PA Cracker Plant

This is rich. MDN has long chronicled the flakiness of U.S. Bob Casey (Democrat, PA) on the shale drilling issue. On one hand he wants the heavy hand of the federal government to regulate drilling, violating the Constitution in doing so. On the other hand, like a typical sleazy politician, he has his hand out and wants the money and jobs shale drilling generates (see The Two Faces of Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) on Shale Drilling).

The hand-stuck-out-for-money-and-jobs Casey is manifesting again at present. He just fired a letter off to Shell to “pressure them” into making a decision about moving forward with an ethane cracker in PA. Which is kind of funny, that he’s posturing and preening and pretending to goad Shell along when Shell is already well along and likely to move forward with no regard for what Bob Casey wants or thinks (see Odds in Favor of a PA Ethane Cracker Just Went WAY Up). What a waste of a Senate seat. Here’s what the preening Bob Casey said to Shell…
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More Details Leak About Proposed WV Ethane Cracker Plant

A few weeks ago WV and Brazilian-based Odebrecht announced plans to build an ethane cracker plant near Parkersburg, WV (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). Wayne Dunn, the president of the commission that governs Wood County, WV where the cracker would be built, recently said some very interesting things about the cracker. One comment: he’s known about the Odebrecht cracker for more two years! Congratulations to a politician that can keep a secret that long.

Dunn also said he pegs the chances that the Odebrecht cracker will be built at somewhere between 60-80%. He says it’s far from a done deal, but the odds are better that it will be built than not. Here’s a few more interesting “insider” insights into the proposed cracker plant coming to Parkersburg, WV:
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AP’s “Evidence” Shell Still Considering a PA Cracker Plant

evidenceIt seems that darned West Virginia ethane cracker plant is just getting too much attention, so the AP has written a “Me too! Me too! Look at me! Pick me!” article about the proposed Shell ethane cracker plant planned for Beaver County, PA. AP has “investigated” (there’s a first!) and found certain evidence that may point to Shell actually going forward with their cracker plant. As MDN pointed out tongue-in-cheek just last week, the Greater Pittsburgh area has some angst that the WV cracker may spell the end of the Shell cracker in their state–so there’s a bit of trash talking going on (see Clash of the Ethane Cracker Titans: PA vs WV Smackdown).

AP to the rescue! Here’s the evidence from the AP that yes indeed, Shell really really really is maybe considering may possibly might actually build a cracker plant near Pittsburgh after all:
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Analysis: Why Parkersburg, WV for a Cracker Plant Complex?

Don Surber from the Charleston Daily Mail writes a good analysis article in today’s edition that attempts to answer the question, “Why would Brazilian company Odebrecht pick Parkersburg, WV to build an ethane cracker plant?” Surber argues the selection of Parkersburg as the location vaults it into potentially being the most important city in the entire state of WV. He’s right.

Surber’s main point: Don’t focus on the ethane cracker, as nice as that will be. Instead, it’s the three polyethylene plants Odebrecht is going to build that are the real story, the real diamond, if (still a big if) the ethane cracker gets built. Why? It is the polyethylene (plastics) plants that will create a renaissance in manufacturing (i.e. jobs) in the region…
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BIG NEWS: West Virginia is Getting an Ethane Cracker Plant

big newsThe Parkersburg News and Sentinel is reporting that WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will make an announcement today that has been years in coming: West Virginia is getting its own “multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker chemical plant” and it will be located in Wood County. If this rumor, which seemingly originates with reliable sources, bears out, this is seriously good news for WV. In fact, we’re jumping up and down happy! For years MDN has been pulling/cheerleading/advocating for WV to get their own cracker–we think they deserve it.

The speculation is that Tomblin sealed a deal for a cracker plant on a recent European trade mission trip (see WV Gov Going to Europe to Find Him a Cracker). While he was in Europe, he said by phone he would have a big announcement a few days after he returned home. We speculated at the time, three weeks ago, that he might be talking about a cracker (see Did Gov Tomblin Find a European Investor for a WV Cracker Plant?). Was our speculation accurate? We will know today…
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