Marcellus Drillers Attempting to Woo Chemical Companies to Build Plants in the Marcellus

Marcellus Shale drillers and regional economic development agencies are trying to interest chemical companies in locating to southwest PA and northern WV by building “cracking plants” that would convert some of the compounds from Marcellus drilling into the raw material used to manufacture plastics and other chemical products. Just one such plant would mean a $1 billion investment, creating thousands of short-term jobs to build the plant, and hundreds of permanent jobs to staff it once built.

Regional leaders have approached five chemical makers about building gas “cracking” plants in Southwest Pennsylvania or northern West Virginia, said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

A plant with cracking furnaces that turn ethane into ethylene typically costs $1 billion, and employs about 250 people, Yablonsky said.

The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh, which the conference and business investment group Innovation Works formed two years ago, is pushing the idea that the “wet” gas — rich in ethane, butane and propane — that comes from Marcellus shale and other wells is ideal for making ethylene. The compound is used in coatings, adhesives and other products.*

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (May 5, 2011) – Consol pitches gas role to industry