Shell, One Other Company Close to Cracker Plant Announcement

According to officials in West Virginia, who are super-serious about attracting at least one ethane cracker plant to their state, Shell and one other company will announce site selections for their plants in January of 2012. West Virginia fully intends that at least one of those two plants will be inside their borders, and they are pulling out all of the stops to ensure it happens. In fact, according to WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s chief of staff, it’s the newly-elected governor’s “No. 1 goal.”

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said Shell and another company are actively seeking to put a cracker in Appalachia, and he believes three West Virginia sites are in the running.

Burdette spoke about the state’s efforts to attract an ethane cracker during a break at the fifth annual Governor’s Energy Summit on Tuesday at Stonewall Resort.

The race for a cracker has intensified as big companies have moved into the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, southwest Pennsylvania and neighboring Ohio to tap the natural-gas rich Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus is now believed to be the second-largest natural gas field in the world.

Shell has said it plans to build a cracker in Appalachia. The company also has said it plans to announce its chosen site in January. Burdette said a second company, whose name has not been publicly revealed, also is likely to announce its site selection in January.

Burdette said he understands that Shell originally looked at about 44 potential sites in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He said West Virginia showed the company eight promising sites, and he believes three of those sites are still in the running.

"We’ve proposed a world-class proposition to these companies," he said. "We will turn over every stone to get a cracker. That’s our commitment."

Rob Alsop, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s chief of staff, said attracting a cracker remains the governor’s No. 1 goal.

"We really think it’s right within our wheelhouse," he said. "We’re a natural resource state. We have the infrastructure. It’s our top priority at the moment.

"We have some great sites in the Kanawha Valley, in the Northern Panhandle and along the Ohio River," Alsop said. "We think we can compete with any other place they’re looking at in the Appalachian basin. We think we’re competitive with other sites."*

*Charleston Daily Mail (Dec 7, 2011) – State still in running for plant