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Antero Resources President Paul Rady speaks Wednesday about the potential impact of the natural gas industry on manufacturing during the keynote address at the Marcellus to Manufacturing Conference at the Charleston Civic Center. Kenny Kemp|Charleston Gazette

W.Va. gas industry ‘an awakening giant’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Antero Resources announced Wednesday that it will supply nearly half of the ethane needed to support the proposed petrochemical complex in Wood County known as project Ascent — Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.

Company President Paul Rady told a crowd of about 70 people at the Marcellus to Manufacturing Conference going on Wednesday and today at the Charleston Civic Center that Marcellus Shale is “an awakening giant.”

Rady was joined by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Odebrecht Vice President David Peebles. Odebrecht announced in November that it would explore its options in developing a petrochemical complex that would include an ethane cracker plant, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation.

In January, Odebrecht announced that it purchased land in Wood County for the project.

“We want growth, jobs and prosperity in this region,” Rady said about the developments of project Ascent.

Antero will supply 30,000 barrels per day of ethane under the tentative agreement. The agreement is contingent on project Ascent moving forward after a multi-year feasibility study.

“It’s a big step because, without this [ethane supply], you can’t go forward. It’s a first step. We need a pool of suppliers,” Peebles said. “This is a key, critical element when you talk about manufacturing otherwise you’re not going to have the polyethylene manufactures need to build.”

Ascent will use the ethane to manufacture polyethylene, which is used to manufacture plastics.

Tomblin told the crowd the natural gas industry has the potential to create jobs, heat homes, fuel cars and rejuvenate West Virginia’s manufacturing industry.

“We recognize there is still work ahead to bring Project Ascent to fruition, but it is a major step forward,” Tomblin said.

Tomblin said his administration has worked to cultivate a business-friendly environment in West Virginia and to capitalize on the increased energy production associated with the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. He touted eliminating business taxes for three consecutive years.

“I want to make sure that we do more than just extract and ship our resources,” Tomblin said. “We must guarantee that the development of our natural resources results in jobs created here in West Virginia for West Virginians.”

In moving forward with assessing the project’s feasibility, Peebles said, Odebrecht will look at other elements, including the cost to build, the market the cracker plant hopes to supply and other ethane suppliers for a “secure” ethane supply.

“The big need for us is going to be what we call the off-ramp from the pipelines,” Peebles said. “We need to get the ethane to our site in Parkersburg. We have the supply. Now we need the pipeline.”

Odebrecht needs pipeline connections between its Parkersburg location and a Seneca processing plant in Noble County, Ohio, and the Sherwood processing complex in Doddridge County.

Peebles said Antero would be a major supplier, but not necessarily its largest ethane supplier.

Odebrecht said it would use “best practices” to protect worker safety. In March, two Antero Resources workers died from injuries sustained in an explosion in Doddridge County, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“The epicenter of the natural gas industry has shifted to Appalachia,” Rady said. “Shale plays are not all created equal. Some are far more desirable than others.”

The Marcellus, because of its vast size and it’s liquid gas, is more desirable, Rady noted.

David Haney, president of E&H Manufacturing in Mink Shoals, is “tickled to death” with the announcement of an ethane supply. He’s been in the industry for more than 30 years and conducts business throughout Appalachia and into the Indiana basin.

Haney’s company is an exhibitor at the Marcellus to Manufacturing Conference to support the event and interact with customers.

It manufactures primarily oilfield production equipment, such as tanks, separators and pump jacks.

“What’s happening now is, we are starting to see the whole picture come together,” Haney said. “We’ve got the ethane supply, and now we have someone that can use that ethane supply.”

The industry has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, Haney said.

“The operators are bigger. There are a lot less of them. And they are spending a lot more money,” Haney said. “So, it’s good and bad.”

Many of the small, independent producers, like himself, couldn’t compete with the big companies doing horizontal drilling, Haney said.

In the past few years, he said he has seen an increase in business because of the development of the Marcellus and Utica layers. The company has 18 workers and is looking for more.

“We’re starting to get into some of the mid-stream activity and making some of the equipment now for the new horizontal drilling,” Haney said.

 

Reach Caitlin Cook at 304-348-5113 or caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com. 

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