CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Odds that West Virginia will land a billion-dollar natural gas cracker plant have improved dramatically from perhaps 500-to-1 a year ago, the executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone told the legislative Joint Committee on Economic Development Monday.
"Now, I think it's 50-50, or maybe better," Kevin DiGregorio told legislators. "The tipping point was when Bayer said their sites are available."
Earlier this year, Bayer proposed its plant sites in Institute and New Martinsville as locations for the cracker plant, a massive facility that would convert ethane -- a byproduct of natural gas production -- into ethylene. Ethylene is the base chemical used to produce a variety of products, including plastic bottles and containers, clothing, paints and flooring.
Attracting a cracker plant would not only bring $1 billion to $3 billion in direct investment, but would create hundreds of good-paying jobs, and attract ancillary chemical processing facilities, he said.
One key issue is whether there are sufficient underground storage facilities near the sites to store ethane awaiting conversion to ethylene, and Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette announced Monday that the state Development Office has commissioned a survey by the engineering consulting firm of Parsons Brinkerhoff to catalog available storage space.
He said an initial report should be available in 45 days.
Burdette said he believes West Virginia has "some pretty good cards on the table" as it competes with Pennsylvania and Ohio to land at least one cracker plant.
"We have the best infrastructure, the best sites, and the best work force," he said. "We have a balanced budget. We have a surplus, and we have lowered taxes."
Despite running a massive budget deficit, the state of Ohio is offering $1.4 billion in incentives in hopes of attracting a cracker plant.