Dolhert said Aither's cracking process -- developed by Union Carbide Corp. decades ago -- is cheaper and cleaner than traditional steam cracking facilities like the one being built by Shell in Pennsylvania.
"It uses 80 percent less energy and provides 90 percent less carbon dioxide," Dolhert said. "It's a lower-cost process."
Aither's catalytic cracker project could attract other "downstream" companies -- those that use ethylene to manufacture plastics and other products -- to the Kanawha Valley.
Dolhert said Aither plans to build three cracker plants in the Appalachian region, and West Virginia's Northern Panhandle could be in the running for one of the others. The chemical company also is looking at sites in Aliquippa, Pa. -- near the proposed Shell cracker site -- and eastern Ohio for the additional petrochemical facilities.
Aither previously announced plans to spend $750 million for each cracker, but the company's investment at the Institute Industrial Park would be considerably less because Bayer CropScience already has equipment, piping and facilities at the site, Dolhert said.
"The cost depends on what you put in the place and whether the infrastructure is already in place," he said.
Aither is actively raising money for its proposed crackers.
The company recently secured $200,000 in financing from Renewable Manufacturing Gateway, a Pittsburgh-based investment group.
Last June, the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust, the state's venture-capital agency, closed on a $250,000 loan with Aither. The loan's principal can be converted to stock.
In January, Innova Commercialization Group in Fairmont invested $200,000 in Aither through the West Virginia Capital Access Program, which uses federal stimulus funds to help small businesses.
"We're in the process of raising hundreds of millions of dollars," Dolhert said.
Aither, which currently has 10 employees, spun off from the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation and Research Center, or MATRIC, an organization located at the West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park in South Charleston.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.