WV Ethane Cracker Plant Rumored to be Back On Again

It increasingly looks like LyondellBasell Industries, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, will buy out/take over Braskem, the largest petrochemical company in Latin America (headquartered in Brazil). Braskem and its parent company Odebrecht, as you may recall, was hot-to-trot to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker near Parkersburg, WV–four years ago. Odebrecht got mired in scandal in Brazil and that put things on hold in 2015 (see Odebrecht Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). But in 2016 it appeared the project may rekindle (see A Pulse! WV Ethane Cracker Project Comes Back from the Dead). Since that time, we’ve not heard much. A rumbling here and there, but not much. Now that LyondellBassell is actively pursuing Braskem, there is once again excitement about the cracker project in WV. MDN has heard from an industry source that if Braskem sells to LyondellBassell, the Parkersburg cracker plant will be a high priority. In fact, an expert speaking at the recent NGL storage hub event in Southpointe mentioned the WV cracker by name as one of three projects that he thinks will get final approval in the next 12 months (see Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U). Here’s news about how M&A deals happening on other continents directly affect our region–how a LyondellBassell purchase of Braskem may indeed reignite the Parkersburg ethane cracker project…
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Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U

Last week the second annual Appalachian Storage Hub Conference convened at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh/Southpointe. As we pointed out in a post last week, the main topic of discussion was the $10 billion NGL/ethane storage hub (see Southpointe Event Focuses on M-U NGL Storage Hub). As big as the storage hub project is (and the news surrounding it), there was even bigger news coming from the event: 3 more ethane cracker projects for the Marcellus/Utica are likely to announce in the coming year! Tom Gellrich, principal of Top Line Analytics, talks to a lot of people. He’s an insider. At last week’s event, Tom shared some of his insights. He said PTT Global will commit to its previously announced cracker in Belmont County, OH, sometime this year. No real revelation there–we’ve been expecting such an announcement for the past two years. That’s one of three. Then Tom said the on again, off again Braskem/Odebrecht plan to build a cracker near Parkersburg, WV is on again and he expects an announcement to that effect in the next year. Wow! That’s two of three. And then Tom teased the crowd by saying there’s a THIRD project bubbling in the background. No details on who is behind it or where it will be located. Tom says to look for an announcement on this third cracker project by this time next year. Bonus: Tom believes Shell will take a hard look at building a new/second cracker right next to the first, after the first is completed (a fourth new cracker?). We have embarrassing riches of ethane crackers! Each one costing multiple billions of dollars to build…
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Locals Pumped About OH Cracker; WV Cracker Still Not Dead

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry says he “can’t think of a single reason” why PTT Global Chemical won’t build a promised $6 billion ethane cracker facility in Dilles Bottom. Mike Jacoby, VP of business development for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth concurs, saying he is “optimistic” and sees “no problems” ahead for the PTT cracker. In addition to locals in Ohio pumped about the PTT cracker and the promised final investment decision by the end of this year, there is still hope for a cracker plant in West Virginia too. WV officials say Braskem is still expressing interest in a cracker project in the Parkersburg area. Here’s some of the chitter-chatter among pumped-up officials attending a forum last month in Wheeling, WV…
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Braskem Says Future Investment in Marcus Hook Still Possible

Nearly five years ago, in July 2012, then-PA Gov. Tom Corbett announced that some of the Sunoco Marcus Hook Refinery assets had been purchased by Braskem America (see Marcellus to the Rescue: Marcus Hook Refinery to Reopen). Braskem, a division of Brazilian company Odebrecht, uses the Marcus Hook facility to manufacture polypropylene plastics. The facility gets some of (most of?) its raw materials (i.e. ethane) from the Marcellus Shale. Interestingly, Braskem’s US operations are headquartered in Philadelphia. When it came time to invest $675 million to build a new polypropylene plant–Braskem chose Texas as the site, not Marcus Hook in their own back yard. Which is a huge disappointment. Why the Texas Gulf Coast? Because of “a ready supply of raw material from nearby petrochemical operations.” But that may not be the end of the story. Braskem CEO Mark Nikolich said just because they chose Texas for this project, doesn’t mean they still don’t love Marcus Hook just as much–and it doesn’t rule out expanding the Philly plant in the future. Just as soon as there’s more ethane available (hello Mariner East 2!)…
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Philadelphia Loses $500M Petchem Plant from Lack of Pipelines

heartbreakerLack of pipelines for natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) in the Northeast has very real economic and financial consequences. Yesterday the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce held a program titled “Fueling A Downstream Economy” in downtown Philly. One of the speakers was from petrochemical giant Braskem America Inc. If the name looks familiar, it should. Braskem and their Brazilian parent company Odebrecht are still considering building an ethane cracker plant in West Virginia (see A Pulse! WV Ethane Cracker Project Comes Back from the Dead). Another project Braskem wants to build is a $500 million polypropylene (i.e. plastics) plant. The decision on where to build it was between Philadelphia and Texas. Even though their preference was Philly, Braskem, in the end, selected Texas because of lack of pipeline infrastructure in Philly. A real heart-breaker. The brutal fact is that PA is not moving fast enough to approve new pipeline infrastructure. That was the message delivered loud and clear yesterday during the Chamber event…
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Event Speakers Say More Crackers on the Way in the Northeast

North-East-US-Petrochemical (1)There was lots of cracker talk at the first Northeast U.S. & Canada Petrochemical Construction Conference & Exhibition in Pittsburgh yesterday. According to NGI’s ace reporter for Shale Daily, Jamison Cocklin, excitement over the Shell cracker announcement from a few weeks ago was “palpable” at yesterday’s event. There was plenty of talk about the Shell cracker–but the talk coming from the event that interests MDN is talk about both the PTT Global Chemical cracker planned for Ohio, AND the Braskem cracker planned for West Virginia. These other two world class cracker plants (similar in size and scope to Shell’s project) “remain on track.” Now that is news!…
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A Pulse! WV Ethane Cracker Project Comes Back from the Dead

pulseWhat’s this? The all-but-dead ethane cracker project planned for West Virginia has new life! (Perhaps the Shell announcement has something to do with it?) Brazilian company Odebrecht has pulled out of the Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise (ASCENT) project previously announced for the Parkersburg, WV area (see Odebrecht Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). However, Odebrect subsidiary Braskem has confirmed they will now move forward with developing the project on their own. If this bears out, it is fantastic news for a state that (in our opinion) deserves a cracker. But before you get overly excited, Braskem’s announcement that they are now the lead on the project is still not a confirmation they will build it. Braskem is still in the evaluation stage…
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A Crack of Light for the West Virginia Cracker?

Speaking at an industry conference in Pittsburgh last week, West Virginia’s Dept. of Commerce Secretary, Keith Burdette, indicated there’s still a faint blip on the monitor that Odebrecht may yet decide to build an ethane cracker plant in Wood County, WV. According to Burdette, Odebrecht’s subsidiary Braskem will purchase more land for the cracker by the end of the first quarter. If the Odebrecht cracker project was as dead as a door nail (which it has appeared to be in recent months), it doesn’t seem like they would continue to spend money on it. Right? Burdette also said all three large cracker projects, Odebrecht, Shell’s project in PA, and PTT Global’s project in OH have indicated they are likely to push off a final investment decision (FID) until 2017. Bummer…
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Odebrecht CEO Arrested; What Does it Mean for WV Cracker Plant?

Scandal has rocked Odebrecht, the Brazilian company that in November 2013 announced it wants to build a $4 billion ethane cracker plant complex near Parkersburg, WV (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). Marcelo Odebrecht, president and CEO of Odebrecht SA–one of the largest construction companies in South America–was recently arrested for being part of a plan that stole “billions of dollars” from Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company. His arrest raises legitimate questions about the viability of the proposed Parkersburg ethane cracker project. We can all pretend that the arrest of the CEO of the company proposing to build the plant has little or no effect on the future of the project–but we’re not children. So let’s not pretend. What do you think is occupying Mr. Odebrecht’s attention these days–building a petrochemical plant in far-off West Virginia, or staying out of jail?…
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WV Officials Say Odebrecht Considering Reconfigured Cracker Plant

As MDN told you a month ago, Brazilian company Odebrecht is signaling they may not build an ethane cracker plant near Parkersburg, WV after all (see Odebrect Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker). Which is a big disappointment, since the project seemed to have so much forward momentum. However, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s representatives are still not defeated–far from it. They don’t see Odebrecht’s statement that the plant “needs to be re-evaluated” (Odebrecht’s words, not ours) as a definite “no” so they’re continuing to hold out hope that it will get built, but perhaps modified from its original plan…
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Odebrecht Pushes the Pause Button on WV Ethane Cracker

pause buttonMore troubling talk from Odebrecht about a proposed ethane cracker plant in Parkersburg, WV. In February, MDN brought you the first tremors in what until that point had been nothing but positive signs the project would move forward (see First Cloud Appears for Odebrect WV Ethane Cracker Plant Project and Parkersburg Cracker Plant Decision May Not Come in 2015 After All). Now comes word that Odebrect and its American subsidiary Braskem have pushed the pause button on the WV cracker project…
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First Cloud Appears for Odebrect WV Ethane Cracker Plant Project

Hmmm. Is there a cloud on the horizon over the Odebrecht ethane cracker project proposed for Parkersburg, WV? Until now every single thing we’ve read or heard (or discussions we’ve had with David Peebles from Odebrecht) have indicated the WV ethane cracker project is full speed ahead, pedal to the metal. It was only at the tail end of 2013 that the project was announced (see WV Announces Brazilian Company to Build Ethane Cracker Complex). The $4 billion project will construct not only an ethane cracker, but several petrochemical plants as well (see Odebrect Cracker Aims to Attract Chemical/Plastics Manufacturing). In fairness, Odebrecht has said a final decision won’t be made until later this year (see Odebrecht WV Cracker Plant Decision “By End of 2015?). And until now, it certainly seemed like this project, even more than the Shell cracker in Pennsylvania, has had the momentum. Then we read this…
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WV Trip to Brazil Reaffirms Cracker Plant: “Comfort Level Strong”

high comfort levelLast week West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin led a trade delegation on a junket to Brazil to talk with officials from Odebrecht and Braskem about the $3 billion proposed ethane cracker plant/petrochemical complex the companies are planning for Parkersburg, WV (see WV Gov. Tomblin Leads Trade Mission to Brazil re Cracker Plant). Accompanying Tomblin on the trip were his wife, Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette and several others. Fresh back from the trip both Tomblin and Burdette have very encouraging comments. Burdette in particular effused about the ASCENT cracker plant project, saying: “Our comfort level [that the project will happen] is very strong.” Burdette also said (perhaps in response to criticisms about an expensive taxpayer-funded trip to Brazil) that it was important for WV officials to spend time in their offices–as a courtesy and to show commitment to a project that the company is spending beaucoup bucks on in WV…
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WV Gov. Tomblin Leads Trade Mission to Brazil re Cracker Plant

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office has announced that the Governor and first lady, along with Keith Burdette, Secretary of the West Virginia Dept. of Commerce and several other officials, are going on a road trip to Brazil to babysit, er advance the ball on the ethane cracker plant planned for the Parkersburg, WV area by Brazilian company Odebrecht and its sister company Braskem. The trade delegation will discuss “next steps” with their counterparts–to ensure everything is on track. It’s also a nice little junket/vacation to get the Guv (a Democrat) out of town after his state essentially turned Republican underneath his feet in Tuesday’s election…
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Economist Briefs WVU-P on Odebrecht Ethane Cracker

In February, the former director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and professor emeritus at WVU, Tom Witt, released a study about the coming economic miracle that will be the Odebrecht ethane cracker plant in Parkersburg, WV (see Economist Releases Report on WV Cracker Plant’s Economic Impact). Witt’s previous employer, WVU, also hired him to brief them about this coming economic miracle. They specifically want to be sure their educational programs will help prepare the local workforce. Witt briefed the Parkersburg Board of Governors earlier this month. What did he tell them?…
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Odebrecht WV Cracker Plant Decision “By End of 2015”

An update on the progress being made by Odebrecht and their planned ethane cracker plant and petrochemical manufacturing facility planned for Parkersburg (Wood County), WV. At the recent Global Plastics Summit in Chicago, Braskem (sister company to Odebrecht) vice president of business development, Renato Monteiro, said a final decision on building the proposed cracker plant will be made “by the end of 2015.” Here’s a few other tidbits about the cracker plant that came from Monteiro at the conference, including when the first PE (polyethylene) might be manufactured at the plant…
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