Tomblin said Shell officials told him the West Virginia site was competitive in terms of location, transportation, and economic incentives offered by the state.
"They were very pleased with everything in West Virginia," the tovernor said. "It came strictly down to site selection."
Shell announced its preferred site just days after Shell CEO Peter Voser said at an industry conference that his company was "quite a few years away from a potential final investment decision" on building a cracker plant.
The cracker would process ethane from Marcellus natural gas to produce ethylene, one of the primary building blocks for petrochemicals, and important raw materials for countless everyday items.
In June 2011, Shell announced it was looking for a site to build a cracker plant somewhere in Appalachia, setting off a bidding war between West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania for the facility.
Pennsylvania approved legislation that would give the project a 15-year tax abatement, while Ohio reportedly offered Shell incentives totaling $1.43 billion. Earlier this year, West Virginia lawmakers rushed approval of a 25-year property tax break - worth an estimated $300 million - so that Tomblin could tout the legislation during a visit to Houston to lobby the company.
In its announcement, Shell said company officials looked at "various factors" to select their preferred site, including "good access to liquids-rich natural gas resources, water, road and rail transportation infrastructure, power grids, economics, and sufficient acreage" for the facility and potential future expansions.
Shell did not mention any of the issues West Virginia business leaders frequently complain about, such as the state's court system, environmental regulations, or union membership among workers.
"It comes down to location, location, location," said Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, a coalition of local construction unions. "The good thing is it's in our region instead of all of this ethane just going to the Gulf Coast."
Dan Carlson, general manager for new business development at Shell, said through a spokeswoman that the Pennsylvania site had "superior transportation logistics." Pennsylvania had recently announced plans to upgrade rail service in the area.
Burdette insisted that current rail service at the West Virginia site -- which is "captive" to one railway line -- was not a factor in Shell's decision.
Burdette said West Virginia officials believe the Shell project will cost between $2 and $3 billion and employ 500 to 1,000 people, depending on the exact size and configuration. Industry studies have projected construction of a new cracker in West Virginia would produce a series of "downstream" facilities, creating 2,500 direct jobs, 6,300 indirect positions, and 3,500 other "induced jobs" generated by the overall increase in economic activity surrounding the plant.
Tom Witt, a West Virginia University economist, agreed with administration officials who sad that location of the facility so close to West Virginia would allow state residents to reap some of its economic benefits.
"We live in a very integrated economy in which state borders are only political, not economic," Witt said.
Among other cracker projects that have been mentioned publicly, South Charleston-based Aither Chemicals LLC has announced it is looking for a site to build a smaller cracker that would use different technology than Shell. Aither says its plant would cost $750 million and produce 200 permanent direct jobs.
A third company, believed to be Brazil-based Braskem, has also said it is studying plans for a new U.S. cracker facility, and some sources say it is closely examining a Wood County location. And former state Supreme Court justice Richard Neely has said that he's working on plans for a cracker plant to be built near Montgomery.
Staff writer Phil Kabler contributed to this report.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.