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Company re-evaluating Wood County cracker plant

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff Baughan The Sabic Plant, near Washington, W.Va., and the background behind where the proposed cracker plant may be located.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Jeff Baughan
The Sabic Plant, near Washington, W.Va., and the background behind where the proposed cracker plant may be located.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A statement from a company studying an ethane cracker plant in Wood County is again fueling speculation the multi-billion-dollar complex won’t be built.

But that’s not the conclusion coming from the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who with Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, on Tuesday met with representatives of Braskem and Odebrecht for an update on Project A.S.C.E.N.T., the Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

“We’re not getting a ‘go…,’ said Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s press spokesman. “Also certainly not getting a ‘no go.'”

The plant would separate ethane from natural gas into components for the polymer industries. Planned at the former Sabic plant in Washington Bottom, the project would include the cracker, polyethylene plants and water treatment and energy co-generation facilities.

The joint statement issued by Braskem and Odebrecht said, “From the beginning, we have taken a deliberate approach to Project A.S.C.E.N.T. Under the current energy scenarios, the original configuration of Project A.S.C.E.N.T. needs to be re-evaluated and a final investment decision on the Project will require more diligence. We have already begun our re-analysis and will continue to take a prudent, deliberative approach to ensure that A.S.C.E.N.T.’s business will be successful and sustainable for the region, our shareholders, team members, industry partners, and clients.”

“That’s very different from ‘we’re not going to build this,'” Stadelman said.

Odebrecht last fall said it was re-evaluating the project because the price of oil was dropping and nothing much has changed since then, Stadelman said.

From the Tuesday meeting, the company is still re-evaluating the configuration of the plant in light of the changing markets, he said.

“(Braskem and Odebrecht) are re-evaluating the configuration of the plant is what they told the governor,” Stadelman said.

Burdette said Wednesday the company remains committed to the project and the Parkersburg/Wood County area. The change deals with the company assessing how changes in the worldwide energy market affect how the project moves forward.

Whether the project remains an ethane operation or a hybrid combination has to be considered, he said.

“It is just one more hurdle they have to get over,” Burdette said. “They are reacting to the changes in the oil markets and how they are going to deal with the changes in worldwide energy costs.”

That may change the timetable on when the project proceeds, he said.

“This may change the timing of the project, but it has not changed the commitment,” Burdette said.

(Staff writer Brett Dunlap contributed to this story.)

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