CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State officials are in talks with three different companies about the possibility of building a cracker plant in West Virginia, state Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said.
Burdette told the Rotary Club of Charleston Monday that he had signed non-disclosure agreements with three companies considering West Virginia sites to build an ethylene cracker.
"There is a heightened interest in this region of the country, and we need to take advantage of it," Burdette said. "Fifteen years ago, I'm not sure we would have made the cut, but now we are getting some attention."
Aither Chemical is one company interested in building a cracker here, he said. Aither would need a 250-acre site for its cracker model. Two other companies are considering West Virginia sites for crackers similar in size to what Shell had considered building, he said. Shell chose a 500-acre site in Pennsylvania to build its cracker plant.
After the meeting, Burdette said that in addition to the three companies, there is another that's potentially interested in building a cracker in West Virginia.
The cracker would convert ethane gas from the Marcellus Shale into ethylene, which is used to make plastics.
"Experts now believe that the Marcellus region could provide a source of that raw feedstock greater than any place in the world but the Persian Gulf," Burdette said. "And it may be able to do it as cost effectively because of a combination of things, and that is location, location, location."
West Virginia decided to drill for gas in the Marcellus Shale and make something out of it rather than ship it elsewhere, he said.
He called Shell's former interest in building a cracker plant in the state "a warm up." Burdette said he was disappointed but not distraught in March when Shell announced it ruled out West Virginia in favor of building an ethane cracker in Pennsylvania.