"The existence of a cracker plant would encourage companies like Bayer to revitalize their chemical plants to make other products," Neely said.
He said Hedrick told him the Kanawha Valley's chemical industry "would be very interested in taking a substantial amount of the stuff that we could make, because transportation costs would be so much lower."
Neely said he believes declining coal production makes it necessary to get more fuels from other sources, especially natural gas, to generate electric power.
On Friday, he cited a report in The Wall Street Journal that said "only 44 percent of all U.S. electrical energy is generated by coal today." In 2003, coal generated 51 percent of the nation's electric power.
A typical cracking plant, Neely said, will refine natural gas from Marcellus Shale reserves so it can be used in power plants, as well as generating other chemical products.
In another cracker-related development, Aither Chemicals, based in South Charleston, announced Friday that it has received a $200,000 investment from the Fairmont-based INNOVA Commercialization Group to continue research into cracker technology.
Aither has focused on converting ethane, a component of natural gas, into ethylene, a raw material used in plastics and other products.
Other groups funding Aither include the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust, TechConnectWV and the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center.
Leonard Dolhert, Aither's CEO, said in a news release, "We continue to take steps toward building a next-generation ethane cracker in West Virginia. Cracking was originally developed in West Virginia.
"This will allow us to maximize the potential of Marcellus Shale without shipping our natural resources out of the state," Dolhert said.
Neely said, "If these guys have a good technology, I want to put them in contact with my engineers in Tennessee."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.