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Wood County cracker plant still being discussed

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — State and company planners remain committed to the ethane cracker plant in Wood County despite the pull out of a major player in the multi-billion-dollar project.

Odebrecht of Brazil was the major company in the $4 billion ethane cracker plant, A.S.C.E.N.T., in Wood County, but has transferred control of the project to Braskem, a wholly-owned subsidiary. A.S.C.E.N.T. stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

Braskem is going forward on its own in developing the project, Braskem spokesman George Manahan told the newspaper in an email on Thursday.

“Given the current energy scenarios, Braskem will continue to take a prudent, deliberative approach in the development of Project A.S.C.E.N.T.,” Manahan said.

Manahan was asked by the newspaper what is the effect on the project without Odebrecht and would Braskem seek other investors from the United States and around the world.

The project was announced three years ago amid great fanfare with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and company representatives at the Caperton Center at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. It would be, if eventually approved, the largest development project and investment in the history of the state.

The site is the former SABIC plant on West Virginia 892 south of Parkersburg, which has been purchased by the company.

The cracker plant would convert ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus and Utica shales natural gas, into the ethylene, a component in the polymer industry. A.S.C.E.N.T. would be under the operation of Braskem America.

Chris Stadelman, a spokesman for Tomblin, said discussions continue.

“Braskem was the company originally involved in the cracker discussions for the Wood County site and the state has a longstanding relationship with the company,” Stadelman said. “Gov. Tomblin and the state’s development office remain committed to ongoing discussions with Braskem officials about the proposed ethane cracker as the company continues to monitor changes in the world energy market.”

Keith Burdette, state secretary of commerce, was not immediately available for a comment.

On Wednesday, Burdette told MetroNews news “Talkline,” hosted by Hoppy Kercheval, that a number of issues led to the decision,

“Odebrecht is mired in some real significant challenges in Brazil and I think they are distracted with that and other issues,” he said. “Braskem is the one that started the project in the first place.”

In June 2015, Marcelo Odebrecht, president and CEO of Odebrecht, and others were accused by Brazilian authorities of participating in a plot to steal billions of dollars from Petrobas, a state-run oil company.

Braskem and Odebrecht last year said additional project review was needed because of the decline in oil prices since 2013.

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