Parkersburg could be the most important city in the state.
If Odebrecht of Brazil is able to build a cracker for its Braskem subsidiary, Wood County could wind up with a chemical valley that rivals Kanawha County in its heyday.
The best part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's announcement last week is not the cracker, a plant that spins natural gas into gold — well, feedstock for petrochemicals.
But the company also plans to construct three polyethylene plants to go with the cracker (or maybe the cracker goes with the plants).
If this happens, West Virginia will pump the natural gas out of the Marcellus shale formation, turn it into a feedstock and turn that feedstock into polyethylene products, which are so many, the mind reels.
It's trite to say win-win. Think triple play. Or to use the game-changer cliche, Parkersburg will go from playing catch to playing baseball.
Of course, this is far from a done deal. Officials cited financing, marketing and regulation among the issues that lie ahead.
Odebrecht is a good-side company with annual revenues of $43 billion, according to Wikipedia. But Shell has 10 times that revenue and apparently cannot pull off construction of a cracker in Pennsylvania, just north of Wheeling.
On the other hand, Shell has had bad luck in tapping into the various shale formations and its CEO will retire next year at 55.
Size doesn't always matter; remember, Mitchell Energy, a cash-strapped wildcatter, developed the hydraulic fracturing technology in the 1990s that led to the Marcellus boom.
There are environmental concerns. The plant's location is in Washington, W.Va., along the Ohio River, which certainly everyone wants to protect.
Hence, Odebrecht plans to build its own energy generation and water treatment facilities. However, the state should always trust but verify when it comes to regulation.
Foreign companies are investing in the U.S. chemical industry.