Whatever Happened to Aither Chemical, WV’s “Small” Cracker Plant?

what happenedMore than 3 1/2 years ago (in January 2012) MDN told you about a plan in West Virginia to use a process patented by Union Carbide in the 1970s to build an ethane cracker plant on the cheap–much less than the typical “world scale” crackers announced by Shell, Odebrecht and others since that time (see Another New Entrant in the Ethane Cracker Plant Sweepstakes). The company created to build the WV “cheaper” cracker plant was called Aither Chemical, a creating of a non-profit funded, in part, by the State of WV. What ever happened to that project?…
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Aither Chemicals Still Wants to Build a Cracker Plant in WV

Still more talk about an ethane cracker plant for West Virginia—this time from perennial ethane promoter Aither Chemicals. At last week’s Developing Unconventional Gas (DUG) East conference in Pittsburgh, Aither’s CFO said his company could build a new ethane cracker for a fraction of the cost Shell is proposing for their cracker in Monaca, PA. Another speaker expressed doubts that Shell will actually build their announced cracker plant in Monaca:

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Aither: 5 Compounds Customers Want from a Cracker Plant

Aither Chemicals remains committed to building an ethane cracker plant somewhere in the Marcellus/Utica Shale region, preferably in the Kanawha Valley region of West Virginia. An ethane cracker plant uses ethane (from wet gas) to “crack” it into other chemical compounds. Ethane is most commonly cracked to make ethylene, a raw material used in plastics.

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Aither Chemicals Still Trying for a Cracker Plant in WV

never give upWill West Virginia ever get its own ethane cracker plant? It will if Aither Chemicals, based in South Charleston, WV has any say in the matter. MDN has been following the Aither story for some time. Aither Chemicals, a spin-off/subsidiary of Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center, was established to build and operate ethane cracker plants that use modern technology making the plants smaller and less expensive to build and operate than tradition cracker plants (see this MDN story for background).

Aither had a deal in principle with Bayer CropScience and MarkWest Energy to build one of these “new” kinds of cracker plants in the Charleston, WV area. That deal was set to be officially announced in mid-March (see this MDN story). But then the wheels came off the wagon and all was silent. No deal, no announcement. Until now.

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New Movement on the Aither Chemicals Cracker Plant in WV?

A month and a half ago it seemed imminent that Aither Chemicals would announce they would build a new ethane cracker plant at the Bayer CropScience plant site at Institute Industrial Park, located in Kanawha County, near Charleston, WV (see this MDN story). Bayer CropScience, owner of the site, and MarkWest Energy, a huge pipeline company, were named as potential partners in the deal. But the expected announcement never came, and all has been silent since.

An article in the Charleston Daily Mail caught MDN’s eye, an article that says the local city of Nitro, WV have filed a petition with Kanawha County to annex 44 properties surrounding the Bayer CropScience plant. The properties in that area of the county are unincorporated—no official town or city municipal government control—and if Nitro annexes the property surrounding the plant, it prevents any other communities from trying to annex the plant itself at some future date.

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Aither Chemicals to Announce WV Ethane Cracker Plant

Aither Chemicals logoOne of the companies that has been sniffing around the concept of building an ethane cracker plant in the Marcellus/Utica region is Aither Chemicals. MDN wrote about Aither’s interest in building a cracker plant in West Virginia back in January (see this MDN story). Aither retained a Pittsburgh investment firm to help them secure funding for the project.

It appears Aither has found a couple of partners and will make an announcement on Wednesday about their plan to build an ethane cracker plant in Institute Industrial Park, located near Charleston, WV. One of the partners is the current owner of the site: Bayer CropScience. The other partner is pipeline giant MarkWest Energy.

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