Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Keith Burdette, secretary of commerce for the state of West Virginia, speaks during a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, at Allevard Sogefi USA Inc., in Prichard.

Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - W.Va. West Virginia officials are more confident the proposed multibillion-dollar ethane cracker facility being planned for Wood County will become a reality following a trip to South America to meet with project officials, the state's commerce secretary said Tuesday.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, in a telephone interview with the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, said he, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Wood County Area Roundtable President Cam Huffman and others recently completed a series of meetings with Odebrecht and Braskem executives in Brazil.

Odebrecht and Braskem have been planning for the development of an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation on the site of the SABIC facility in Washington, W.Va.

A cracker plant converts ethane, a byproduct from Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale natural gas, into the widely used ethylene, a key component for the plastics industry.

The proposed complex is called ASCENT, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. If the plant is built, it would be operated by Braskem America.

''This has been a good week,'' Burdette said. ''This was just one more part in an ongoing process.''

Burdette said officials discussed timetables, work being done, and the list of things that needed to be completed.

Since announcing the proposed project in November 2013, officials with Project ASCENT have purchased the property, done environmental studies, applied for permits, secured ethane supplies and arranged for some of the technology that will be used in the facilities. Next, work will be done on preliminary engineering. Officials with Project ASCENT have said it would be about a year before the decision is made to move forward with the project.


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