Aither Chemicals LLC building W.Va. cracker plant
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The second major petrochemical facility planned for servicing gas from the Marcellus Shale region appears to be headed to West Virginia.
Aither Chemicals LLC announced Friday it was taking the first steps toward building an ethane cracker plant in the Kanawha Valley region near Charleston, W.Va. The project is estimated to cost up to $750 million.
The firm is working with Bayer MaterialScience LLC of New Martinsville, W.Va., to determine whether enough energy firms are interested in supplying the plant with gas to warrant construction. Bayer property in the Kanawha Valley, about 220 miles south of Pittsburgh, is being evaluated for the site.
South Charleston-based Aither had also been scouting locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and has said it wants a location with access to ethane and accessible by boat, rail and road.
The company's "open season" on gauging market interest is expected to run until July 20, with construction possibly beginning in early 2015.
Midstream companies that process gas often use an "open season" to test market viability before beginning construction. In Aither's case, the company wants to see if there are enough natural gas producers in the area willing to supply ethylene and other extracted gases for processing at the plant.
Aither's announcement comes in the same week Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has been working to shore up support for a massive tax credit aimed at securing Beaver County as the location for an ethane cracker plant to be built by Shell Oil Co. The proposed tax credit would be worth $66 million annually for 25 years.
Aither chief executive officer Leonard Dolhert has been pursuing tax incentives, but no incentive figures or plans for this initial plant were released. The company wants to build several across the Tri-state region, spokesman Jason Keeling said.
The American Chemistry Council has said sites similar to the Shell plant could create 17,000 jobs in the chemical industry. The Aither operation is smaller, with an estimated 2,000 construction jobs and 200 permanent direct jobs.
Downtown-based business advisory nonprofit Renewable Manufacturing Gateway is helping secure money from investors for Aither.
First Published June 23, 2012 12:00 am