CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A chemical engineer from Tennessee is working with colleagues to design a proposed "cracker" plant along the Kanawha River near Montgomery.
"With 46 chemical engineers, we are one of the larger independent engineering companies around," said Andy Felker, a chemical engineer at Process Engineering Associates in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Richard Neely, a Charleston lawyer and former West Virginia Supreme Court justice, recently announced plans to build the local cracker plant to process natural gas.
Invictus LLC, Neely's new company, also could produce a variety of other products such as diesel fuel, gasoline, naphtha and ethylene -- a major product used by the plastics industry.
"We make sure that the plants and processes are constructed and managed properly to follow [federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration] rules," Felker told the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
"It will depend on what configuration they finally decide to use, but most plants take between two and five years to create," he said, noting that Invictus already has started to get the permits it would need for a cracker plant.
Getting all the needed permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection could take up to two years, Neely predicted.
"They are looking at the options to see exactly what they can make from the well gas," Felker said. "Once they have identified the most economical procedures, we can get into the actual process of designing the plant."
Companies drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale deposits in Northern West Virginia and Eastern Ohio, Neely said, would send that gas down to Kanawha County by pipeline.
"Overall, this has a lot of potential," Felker said. "We are really excited to be involved with Invictus."
Neely also is working to raise money to finance the plant. He estimated it will cost $1.5 billion to build a plant producing high-quality products for the chemical industry and $3 billion for a plant producing gasoline and diesel fuel from natural gas.
Neely said Friday that he had received "enthusiastic support" from Steven Hedrick, vice president of Bayer CropScience in Institute.
"Steve is a local hero, who is really concerned about the fate of the [Kanawha] Valley," Neely said. "He is not just somebody who has been brought in here for a three-year tour and will be transferred to Scotland for the next three years.